Why did the Mongol Empire disintegrate so rapidly after its peak?

Why did the Mongol Empire disintegrate so rapidly after its peak?

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The Mongol Empire rapidly expanded to become the largest land empire in history, but then it disintegrated just as rapidly. What caused this so rapid demise of the world's largest pre-British Empire?

The reason is that it was too large to be governed effectively. Already Genghis Khan understood this when he split it to uluses and assigned them to his sons. It was supposed that the Great Khan in Karakorum will perform the general governance. The system was not effective. When Mongol armies broke to Poland and Hungary, they had to interrupt their conquest because the great khan died, and the leaders had to attend the kurultai. (Which normally took years).

It was Khubilai Khan who in a similar situation decided to continue his conquest of China rather than go to the kurultai. So he created a dynasty in China which ruled almost a century. Another big piece of the empire, the Golden Horde, existed till 16th century.

I'm not sure the "disintegrated so rapidly" assertion is correct. As Alex answered, they dispersed intentionally (into Siberia, China, India, Persia).

Second, "so rapid demise of… " is also relative. Kazakh Khanate lasted until 19th century. Both co-founders of this Khanate (khans kerei and zhanibek) were direct descendants of Genghis Khan. In short, Mongolian empire (incl Kazakh Khanate) lasted till 1847. That's over 600 years.

What I am really getting to is that these statements about the Mongols has been around for a long time. These statements don't help to understand Mongol history because they are simple throw-away lines which feeds into the popular myth. They are usually to the effect: "that they disappeared quickly, or the Mongol empire disintegrated, or they came and went like a flash… "

Let me finish by saying, actually, I recognised this question immediately because it's from a famous article "The Mongols: Ecological and Social Perspectives", Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, Vol. 46, No. 1 (Jun., 1986), pp. 11-50. It isn't really a question, but more an assertion.

From the very first paragraph, in full (emphases mine):

"FOR all that has been written about the Mongols of the twelfth to fourteenth centuries, some fundamental questions continue to intrigue us. What set them in motion? Why did they wreak so much more destruction than the other nomad conquerors who had preceded them? Why did they become Muslims in Muslim lands but not-apart from a few individuals-Confucianists or Taoists or Chinese Buddhists in China, or Christians in Rus'? Why did they stop when and where they did? Why did their empire disintegrate so quickly?"

Much research on Mongol history has been done since then, over 30 years of additional research. I do not understand why readers here are still adopting a Western-perspective from 1980s and assuming it is still correct.

The "core" Mongol group was too small, relative to its empire. Even today, "Mongolia" has just over 2 million people. In 1200, it was more like 1 million, with an army of 100,000.

Compare this with the fact that China had about 100 million people, Persia, perhaps 20 million, and Russia, perhaps 10 million (population sizes vary depending on how these "countries" are defined). That's too many people for 1 million Mongols to control.

In theory, the Mongols could have used "proxies," but they were culturally backward, and could not control more advanced and populous nations, except by force. Only Genghis Khan and his immediate successors could do this, and the longer the length of time after his death, the more Mongolian control was lessened.

The Decline and Fall of the Mongol Empire

When historians explain the end of empires, they often follow a ‘decline and fall’ paradigm which owes its fame to Edward Gibbon's great book on the Roman Empire. Recent historians of Late Antiquity, however, have tended to doubt its validity. This article considers the reasons for the end of the Mongol Empire of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. It examines the division of the empire into four khanates, the eventual collapse of each of which is then studied. It suggests that the khanates which retained more of their original nomadic ethos – the Golden Horde in the Pontic steppes and the Chaghatai Khanate in Central Asia – were able to survive longer than those – in the Ilkhanate in Persia and the Great Khanate in China and Mongolia – which had their centres in sedentary lands. It concludes that in all cases, ‘fall’ was the result of internal factors, about which there was nothing that was inevitable, and that there is little evidence of a long ‘decline’. Hence the ‘decline and fall’ paradigm does not seem to provide an adequate explanatory framework.

What happened to Mongolia after Genghis Khan?

Basically why and how did Mongolia go from Genghis pillaging tons of Asia to a medium sized country that nobody really hears anything about?

7 upvotes but no response. At least I'm not the only one interested

Bear in mind that Mongolia has always been a sparsely populated and out-of-the-way part of the world. It briefly obtained great geopolitical significance in the 13th and 14th centuries, but that was a blip on the radar nobody had "heard much about it" before the Mongol Empire either.

Also, the Mongolia of today isn't the same as the Mongolia of the 13th century. In fact, in Genghis Khan's time there wasn't such a thing of Mongolia. Before he came along the Mongols were one of hundreds of tribes of the eastern Eurasian steppes, and a minor one at that. But it happened to be the tribe that Genghis Khan came from, and so it was the name that was taken by the confederation he built and the empire they conquered. After that "Mongolia" came to refer to the whole region, and for convenience I'll stick to that terminology.

So, in it's heyday Mongolia was the seat of an empire that ruled most of Eurasia. Genghis Khan's immediate successors built a city called Karakorum not far from where their illustrious ancestor was born. Built because of course until then the Mongols and their neighbours were entirely nomadic and there weren't any other cities for thousands of miles. However, given the size of the empire, in practice political power had to be very decentralized. Following nomadic tradition, Genghis Khan had divided his empire into quasi-independent khanates. The khans would return to Karakorum to elect a Great Khan (khagan), whom they were nominally vassals of, but most of the empire was actually governed from the conquered cities where the khans had their courts – Sarai in Russia, Tabriz in Iran and Almaliq in Central Asia. The Great Khan in Karakorum effectively only had direct control over the eastern empire, i.e. Mongolia and China. Never particularly unified to begin with, it's not surprising that the empire quickly began to disintegrate.

The last Great Khan to exert any real control over the other khans was Genghis Khan's grandson Möngke Khan. He was succeeded by his younger brother Kublai Khan, who quickly realised that struggling to bring his cousins in the west into line was a lost cause. Before being elected Great Khan heɽ been the governor of the Mongols' holdings in northern China, so rather than continue ruling from a shabby little town way out in the steppe with rapidly fading geopolitical relevance, he relocated his power base there, founding a new capital called Khanbaliq – modern Beijing. He also significantly expanded Mongol rule in China with the conquest of the southern Song dynasty, reuniting the country. To celebrate he proclaimed himself Emperor of a new dynasty, the Yuan dynasty, a title that came to eclipse that of the Great Khan of the Mongol Empire. Mongolia itself was still under his control of course, but it was a province of a Mongol-ruled Chinese Empire rather than the imperial centre.

The fragmented Mongol khanates didn't last very long. The Yuan dynasty was overthrown by a Han Chinese rebellion in 1368 and the surviving Mongol elite fled back to their ancestral homeland. They maintained the pretence of being the Yuan dynasty for a while, but Mongolia was well and truly off the world stage again. The Mongol Empire was the last great steppe empire the military dominance that steppe nomads had exerted over their sedentary neighbours for centuries was steadily eroded with things like the advent of firearms. Mongolia itself fell back into small regional confederations and petty khanates. Then, starting in the 16th century, the Mongols began converting en masse to Tibetan Buddhism, and the monasteries and lamas slowly gained power over the khans. Finally, in the 17th century, Mongolia was conquered by the Qing dynasty and became a province of China once again, this time very much in a subordinate position.

From the 17th century onwards the borders of Mongolia were eroded as Han Chinese in the south, and Russians in the north, began settling the steppe. Squeezed between them, the modern history of the country has been a balancing act between the two superpowers. With the outbreak of the Chinese Civil War in 1911, Mongolians saw the opportunity to gain independence. The Bogd Khan, a Tibetan lama and the spiritual head of the country, was able to seize control of the northern part of Mongolia (Outer Mongolia), but Inner Mongolia, which had been heavily settled by Han Chinese in the preceding centuries, remained under Chinese control. Independent Mongolia was short-lived, however. In 1919 it was occupied the Chinese. In response the Bogd Khan turned to the colourful Baron Roman von Ungern-Sternberg, a Russian aristocrat with a passion for Tibetan Buddhism and anti-semitism who at the time was running around Siberia with some of the last remnants of the counterrevolutionary White Army. The Mad Baron invaded, and naturally this did not make the Bolsheviks very happy, so they backed a communist uprising. The communists won the three-way war, turning Mongolia into a Soviet satellite state until 1989.

The Plague Enters the Middle East

Starting in the early 1340s, the plague had reached the Middle East. By 1345, the great traveller, Ibn Battuta, noted that:

the number that died daily in Damascus (Syria) had been two thousand

It reached Constantinople, the centre of the Byzantine empire, and from there spread all around the Mediterranean basin. Alexandria, Egypt, was hit in 1347 followed by Mecca in 1349. [3]

In Europe, spectators watched the events unfolding in Asia and the Middle East with interest, but little fear. One recorded that:

India was depopulated Tartary, Mesopotamia, Syria, Armenia were covered with dead bodies the Kurds fled in vain to the mountains.

They should, however, have been very afraid. Their time was soon to come…

World History Test #1

( 1368- 1644) Chinese Dynasty that followed the Mongols. The Ming moved China's capital to Beijing, and ruled for 300 years of peace and prosperity.

also Empire of the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China for 276 years (1368-1644) following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty. The Ming, described by some as "one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history," was the last dynasty in China ruled by ethnic Han Chinese. Although the primary capital of Beijing fell in 1644 to a rebellion led by Li Zicheng (who established the Shun dynasty, soon replaced by the Manchu-led Qing dynasty), regimes loyal to the Ming throne - collectively called the Southern Ming - survived until 1662.

The Hongwu Emperor (ruled 1368-98) attempted to create a society of self-sufficient rural communities ordered in a rigid, immobile system that would guarantee and support a permanent class of soldiers for his dynasty: the empire's standing army exceeded one million troops and the navy's dockyards in Nanjing were the largest in the world. He also took great care breaking the power of the court eunuchs and unrelated magnates, enfeoffing his many sons throughout China and attempting to guide these princes through the Huang Ming Zu Xun, a set of published dynastic instructions. This failed spectacularly when his teenage successor, the Jianwen Emperor, attempted to curtail his uncles' power, prompting the Jingnan Campaign, an uprising that placed the Prince of Yan upon the throne as the Yongle Emperor in 1402. The Yongle Emperor established Yan as a secondary capital and renamed it Beijing, constructed the Forbidden City, and restored the Grand Canal and the primacy of the imperial examinations in official appointments. He rewarded his eunuch supporters and employed them as a counterweight against the Confucian scholar-bureaucrats. One, Zheng He, led seven enormous voyages of exploration into the Indian Ocean as far as Arabia and the coast of Africa.

The rise of new emperors and new factions diminished such extravagances the capture of the Zhengtong Emperor during the 1449 Tumu Crisis ended them completely. The imperial navy was allowed to fall into disrepair while forced labor constructed the Liaodong palisade and connected and fortified the Great Wall of China into its modern form. Wide-ranging censuses of the entire empire were conducted decennially, but the desire to avoid labor and taxes and the difficulty of storing and reviewing the enormous archives at Nanjing hampered accurate figures. Estimates for the late-Ming population vary from 160 to 200 million, but necessary revenues were squeezed out of smaller and smaller numbers of farmers as more disappeared from the official records or "donated" their lands to tax-exempt eunuchs or temples. Haijin laws intended to protect the coasts from "Japanese" pirates instead turned many into smugglers and pirates themselves.

A mixture of Mongol and Turkish people from central Asia

Last of the three empires to be established. his army relied on cannons and muskets.

Caused the rise and spread of Islam. Self-designated as Gurkani (Persian: Gūrkāniyān), was a Persianate empire extending over large parts of the Indian subcontinent and ruled by a dynasty of Mongol and Chagatai-Turkic origin.
In the early 16th century, northern India, being then under mainly Muslim rulers, fell to the superior mobility and firepower of the Mughals. The resulting Mughal Empire did not stamp out the local societies it came to rule, but rather balanced and pacified them through new administrative practices and diverse and inclusive ruling elites, leading to more systematic, centralized, and uniform rule. Eschewing tribal bonds and Islamic identity, especially under Akbar, the Mughals united their far-flung realms through loyalty, expressed through a Persianised culture, to an emperor who had near-divine status. The Mughal state's economic policies, deriving most revenues from agriculture and mandating that taxes be paid in the well-regulated silver currency, caused peasants and artisans to enter larger markets. The relative peace maintained by the empire during much of the 17th century was a factor in India's economic expansion, resulting in greater patronage of painting, literary forms, textiles, and architecture. Newly coherent social groups in northern and western India, such as the Marathas, the Rajputs, and the Sikhs, gained military and governing ambitions during Mughal rule, which, through collaboration or adversity, gave them both recognition and military experience. Expanding commerce during Mughal rule gave rise to new Indian commercial and political elites along the coasts of southern and eastern India. As the empire disintegrated, many among these elites were able to control their own affairs.

The beginning of the empire is conventionally dated to the founder Babur's victory over Ibrahim Lodi in the first Battle of Panipat (1526). It reached its peak extent under Aurangzeb, and declined rapidly after his death (in 1707) under a series of ineffective rulers. The empire's collapse followed heavy losses inflicted by the smaller army of the Maratha Empire in the Deccan Wars (1680-1707), which encouraged the Nawabs of Bengal, Bhopal, Oudh, Carnatic, Rampur, and the Nizam of Hyderabad to declare their independence from the Mughals. Following the Third Anglo-Maratha war in 1818, the Mughal emperor became a pensioner of the Raj, and the empire, its power now limited to Delhi, lingered on until 1857, when it was effectively dissolved after the fall of Delhi during the Indian Rebellion that same year.

The Mughal emperors were Central Asian Turko-Mongols from modern-day Uzbekistan, who claimed direct descent from both Genghis Khan (through his son Chagatai Khan) and Timur. At the height of their power in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, they controlled much of the Indian subcontinent, extending from Bengal in the east to Kabul & Sindh in the west, Kashmir in the north to the Kaveri basin in the south. Its population at that time has been estimated between 110 and 150 million (quarter of the world's population), over a territory of more than 3.2 million square kilometres (1.2 million square miles).
The "classic period" of the empire started in 1556 with the ascension of Akbar the Great to the throne. Under the rule of Akbar and his son Jahangir, India enjoyed economic progress as well as religious harmony, and the monarchs were interested in local religious and cultural traditions. Akbar was a successful warrior. He also forged alliances with several Hindu Rajput kingdoms. Some Rajput kingdoms continued to pose a significant threat to Mughal dominance of northwestern India, but they were subdued by Akbar. Most Mughal emperors were Muslims. However Akbar in the latter part of his life, and Jahangir, were followers of a new religion called Deen-i-Ilahi, as recorded in historical books like Ain-e-Akbari & Dabestan-e Mazaheb.


Since 1776, when Edward Gibbon published the first volume of his The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Decline and Fall has been the theme around which much of the history of the Roman Empire has been structured. "From the eighteenth century onward," historian Glen Bowersock wrote, "we have been obsessed with the fall: it has been valued as an archetype for every perceived decline, and, hence, as a symbol for our own fears." [4] The Fall is not the only unifying concept for these events the period described as Late Antiquity emphasizes the cultural continuities throughout and beyond the political collapse.


The Fall of the Western Roman Empire was the process in which it failed to enforce its rule. The loss of centralized political control over the West, and the lessened power of the East, are universally agreed, but the theme of decline has been taken to cover a much wider time span than the hundred years from 376. For Cassius Dio, the accession of the emperor Commodus in 180 CE marked the descent "from a kingdom of gold to one of rust and iron", [5] while Gibbon also began his narrative of decline from the reign of Commodus, after a number of introductory chapters. Arnold J. Toynbee and James Burke argue that the entire Imperial era was one of steady decay of institutions founded in republican times, while Theodor Mommsen excluded the imperial period from his Nobel Prize-winning History of Rome (1854–56). As one convenient marker for the end, 476 has been used since Gibbon, but other key dates for the fall of the Roman Empire in the West include the Crisis of the Third Century, the Crossing of the Rhine in 406 (or 405), the sack of Rome in 410, and the death of Julius Nepos in 480. [6] [ page needed ]


Gibbon gave a classic formulation of reasons why the Fall happened. He gave great weight to internal decline as well as to attacks from outside the Empire.

The story of its ruin is simple and obvious and, instead of inquiring why the Roman empire was destroyed, we should rather be surprised that it had subsisted so long. The victorious legions, who, in distant wars, acquired the vices of strangers and mercenaries, first oppressed the freedom of the republic, and afterwards violated the majesty of the purple. The emperors, anxious for their personal safety and the public peace, were reduced to the base expedient of corrupting the discipline which rendered them alike formidable to their sovereign and to the enemy the vigour of the military government was relaxed, and finally dissolved, by the partial institutions of Constantine and the Roman world was overwhelmed by a deluge of Barbarians.

Gibbon felt that Christianity had hastened the Fall, but also ameliorated the results:

As the happiness of a future life is the great object of religion, we may hear without surprise or scandal that the introduction, or at least the abuse of Christianity, had some influence on the decline and fall of the Roman empire. the soldiers' pay was lavished on the useless multitudes of both sexes who could only plead the merits of abstinence and chastity. If the decline of the Roman empire was hastened by the conversion of Constantine, his victorious religion broke the violence of the fall, and mollified the ferocious temper of the conquerors (chapter 38). [7]

Some modern Roman historians do not believe that Christianity per se had a significant role in the Empire's fall, in part because of the Eastern (and thoroughly Christian) empire’s continuation for almost a thousand years longer. [8]

Alexander Demandt enumerated 210 different theories on why Rome fell, and new ideas have emerged since. [9] [10] Historians still try to analyze the reasons for loss of political control over a vast territory (and, as a subsidiary theme, the reasons for the survival of the Eastern Roman Empire). Comparison has also been made with China after the end of the Han dynasty, which re-established unity under the Sui dynasty while the Mediterranean world remained politically disunited.

Harper identifies a Roman climatic optimum from about 200 BCE to 150 CE, when lands around the Mediterranean were generally warm and well-watered. From 150 to 450, the climate entered a transitional period, in which taxes were less easy to collect and bore more heavily on the working population. After about 450, the climate worsened further in the Late Antique Little Ice Age. [11] [ page needed ] Climate change has also been suggested as a possible driver of changes in populations outside the Empire, in particular on the Eurasian steppe, though definite evidence is lacking. [12]

Alternative descriptions and labels

From at least the time of Henri Pirenne scholars have described a continuity of Roman culture and political legitimacy long after 476. [ citation needed ] Pirenne postponed the demise of classical civilization to the 8th century. He challenged the notion that Germanic barbarians had caused the Western Roman Empire to end, and he refused to equate the end of the Western Roman Empire with the end of the office of emperor in Italy. He pointed out the essential continuity of the economy of the Roman Mediterranean even after the barbarian invasions, and suggested that only the Muslim conquests represented a decisive break with antiquity. The more recent formulation of a historical period characterized as "Late Antiquity" emphasizes the transformations of ancient to medieval worlds within a cultural continuity. [13] In recent decades archaeologically-based argument even extends the continuity in material culture and in patterns of settlement as late as the eleventh century. [14] [15] [ page needed ] [16] [ page needed ] Observing the political reality of lost control (and the attendant fragmentation of commerce, culture, and language), but also the cultural and archaeological continuities, the process has been described as a complex cultural transformation, rather than a fall. [17] [ page needed ]

Height of power, systematic weaknesses

The Roman Empire reached its greatest geographical extent under Trajan (r. 98–117), who ruled a prosperous state that stretched from Armenia to the Atlantic. The Empire had large numbers of trained, supplied, and disciplined soldiers, drawn from a growing population. It had a comprehensive civil administration based in thriving cities with effective control over public finances. Among its literate elite it had ideological legitimacy as the only worthwhile form of civilization and a cultural unity based on comprehensive familiarity with Greek and Roman literature and rhetoric. The Empire's power allowed it to maintain extreme differences of wealth and status (including slavery on a large scale), [18] [ page needed ] and its wide-ranging trade networks permitted even modest households to use goods made by professionals far away. [19]

The empire had both strength and resilience. Its financial system allowed it to raise significant taxes which, despite endemic corruption, supported a large regular army with logistics and training. The cursus honorum, a standardized series of military and civil posts organised for ambitious aristocratic men, ensured that powerful noblemen became familiar with military and civil command and administration. At a lower level within the army, connecting the aristocrats at the top with the private soldiers, a large number of centurions were well-rewarded, literate, and responsible for training, discipline, administration, and leadership in battle. [20] City governments with their own properties and revenues functioned effectively at a local level membership of city councils involved lucrative opportunities for independent decision-making, and, despite its obligations, became seen as a privilege. Under a series of emperors who each adopted a mature and capable successor, the Empire did not require civil wars to regulate the imperial succession. Requests could be submitted directly to the better emperors, and the answers had the force of law, putting the imperial power directly in touch with even humble subjects. [21] The cults of polytheist religion were hugely varied, but none claimed that theirs was the only truth, and their followers displayed mutual tolerance, producing a polyphonous religious harmony. [22] Religious strife was rare after the suppression of the Bar Kokhba revolt in 136 (after which the devastated Judaea ceased to be a major centre for Jewish unrest).

Nevertheless, it remained a culture based on an early subsistence economy, with only ineffective inklings of a germ theory of disease. Despite its aqueducts, the water supply did not allow good hygiene, and sewage was disposed of on the streets, in open drains, or by scavenging animals. Even in the Roman Climatic Optimum, local harvest failures causing famines were always a possibility. [23] [ page needed ] And even in good times, Roman women needed to have, on average, six children each in order to maintain the population. [23] [ page needed ] Good nourishment and bodily cleanliness were privileges of the rich, advertised by their firm tread, healthy skin color, and lack of the "dull smell of the underbathed". [24] Infant mortality was very high, diarrhoeal diseases were a major cause of death, and malaria was endemic in many areas, notably in the city of Rome itself, possibly encouraged by the enthusiasm of rich Romans for water features in their gardens. [23] [ page needed ]

Climatic worsening and plague

From about 150, the climate became on average somewhat worse for most of the inhabited lands around the Mediterranean. [25] [26] Heavy mortality in 165–180 from the Antonine Plague seriously impaired attempts to repel Germanic invaders, but the legions generally held or at least speedily re-instated the borders of the Empire. [27]

Crisis of the Third Century

The Empire suffered multiple serious crises during the third century. The rising Sassanid Empire inflicted three crushing defeats on Roman field armies and remained a potent threat for centuries. [28] Other disasters included repeated civil wars, barbarian invasions, and more mass-mortality in the Plague of Cyprian (from 250 onwards). Rome abandoned the province of Dacia on the north of the Danube (271), and for a short period the Empire split into a Gallic Empire in the West (260–274), a Palmyrene Empire in the East (260–273), and a central Roman rump state. The Rhine/Danube frontier also came under more effective threats from larger barbarian groupings, which had developed improved agriculture and increased their populations. [29] [30] The average nutritional state of the population in the West suffered a serious decline in the late second century the population of North-Western Europe did not recover, though the Mediterranean regions did. [31]

The Empire survived the "Crisis of the Third Century", directing its economy successfully towards defense, but survival came at the price of a more centralized and bureaucratic state. Under Gallienus (Emperor from 253 to 268) the senatorial aristocracy ceased joining the ranks of the senior military commanders, its typical members lacking interest in military service and showing incompetence at command. [32] [33]

Reunification and political division

Aurelian reunited the empire in 274, and from 284 Diocletian and his successors reorganized it with more emphasis on the military. John the Lydian, writing over two centuries later, reported that Diocletian's army at one point totaled 389,704 men, plus 45,562 in the fleets, and numbers may have increased later. [34] With the limited communications of the time, both the European and the Eastern frontiers needed the attention of their own supreme commanders. Diocletian tried to solve this problem by re-establishing an adoptive succession with a senior (Augustus) and junior (Caesar) emperor in each half of the Empire, but this system of tetrarchy broke down within one generation the hereditary principle re-established itself with generally unfortunate results, and thereafter civil war became again the main method of establishing new imperial regimes. Although Constantine the Great (in office 306 to 337) again re-united the Empire, towards the end of the fourth century the need for division was generally accepted. From then on, the Empire existed in constant tension between the need for two emperors and their mutual mistrust. [28]

Until late in the fourth century the united Empire retained sufficient power to launch attacks against its enemies in Germania and in the Sassanid Empire. Receptio of barbarians became widely practised: imperial authorities admitted potentially hostile groups into the Empire, split them up, and allotted to them lands, status, and duties within the imperial system. [35] In this way many groups provided unfree workers (coloni) for Roman landowners, and recruits (laeti) for the Roman army. Sometimes their leaders became officers. Normally the Romans managed the process carefully, with sufficient military force on hand to ensure compliance, and cultural assimilation followed over the next generation or two.

Growing social divisions

The new supreme rulers disposed of the legal fiction of the early Empire (seeing the emperor as but the first among equals) emperors from Aurelian (r. 270–275) onwards openly styled themselves as dominus et deus, "lord and god", titles appropriate for a master-slave relationship. [36] An elaborate court ceremonial developed, and obsequious flattery became the order of the day. Under Diocletian, the flow of direct requests to the emperor rapidly reduced and soon ceased altogether. No other form of direct access replaced them, and the emperor received only information filtered through his courtiers. [37]

Official cruelty, supporting extortion and corruption, may also have become more commonplace. [38] While the scale, complexity, and violence of government were unmatched, [39] the emperors lost control over their whole realm insofar as that control came increasingly to be wielded by anyone who paid for it. [40] Meanwhile, the richest senatorial families, immune from most taxation, engrossed more and more of the available wealth and income, [41] [42] while also becoming divorced from any tradition of military excellence. One scholar identifies a great increase in the purchasing power of gold, two and a half fold from 274 to the later fourth century, which may be an index of growing economic inequality between a gold-rich elite and a cash-poor peasantry. [43]

Within the late Roman military, many recruits and even officers had barbarian origins, and soldiers are recorded as using possibly-barbarian rituals such as elevating a claimant on shields. [44] Some scholars have seen this as an indication of weakness others disagree, seeing neither barbarian recruits nor new rituals as causing any problem with the effectiveness or loyalty of the army. [45]

In 313 Constantine I declared official toleration of Christianity, followed over the ensuing decades by establishment of Christian orthodoxy and by official and private action against pagans and non-orthodox Christians. His successors generally continued this process, and Christianity became the religion of any ambitious civil official. Under Constantine the cities lost their revenue from local taxes, and under Constantius II (r. 337–361) their endowments of property. [46] This worsened the existing difficulty in keeping the city councils up to strength, and the services provided by the cities were scamped or abandoned. [46] Public building projects became fewer, more often repairs than new construction, and now provided at state expense rather than by local grandees wishing to consolidate long-term local influence. [47] A further financial abuse was Constantius's increased habit of granting to his immediate entourage the estates of persons condemned of treason and other capital charges this reduced future though not immediate income, and those close to the emperor gained a strong incentive to stimulate his suspicion of plots. [46]

Constantine settled Franks on the lower left bank of the Rhine their settlements required a line of fortifications to keep them in check, indicating that Rome had lost almost all local control. [38] Under Constantius, bandits came to dominate areas such as Isauria well within the empire. [48] The tribes of Germany also became more populous and more threatening. [29] In Gaul, which did not really recover from the invasions of the third century, there was widespread insecurity and economic decline in the 300s, [29] perhaps worst in Armorica. By 350, after decades of pirate attacks, virtually all villas in Armorica were deserted, and local use of money ceased about 360. [49] Repeated attempts to economize on military expenditure included billeting troops in cities, where they could less easily be kept under military discipline and could more easily extort from civilians. [50] Except in the rare case of a determined and incorruptible general, these troops proved ineffective in action and dangerous to civilians. [51] Frontier troops were often given land rather than pay as they farmed for themselves, their direct costs diminished, but so did their effectiveness, and there was much less economic stimulus to the frontier economy. [52] However, except for the provinces along the lower Rhine, the agricultural economy was generally doing well. [53]

The numbers and effectiveness of the regular soldiers may have declined during the fourth century: payrolls were inflated so that pay could be diverted and exemptions from duty sold, their opportunities for personal extortion were multiplied by residence in cities, and their effectiveness was reduced by concentration on extortion instead of drill. [54] However, extortion, gross corruption, and occasional ineffectiveness [55] were not new to the Roman army there is no consensus whether its effectiveness significantly declined before 376. [56] Ammianus Marcellinus, himself a professional soldier, repeats longstanding observations about the superiority of contemporary Roman armies being due to training and discipline, not to physical size or strength. [57] Despite a possible decrease in its ability to assemble and supply large armies, [58] Rome maintained an aggressive and potent stance against perceived threats almost to the end of the fourth century. [59]

Julian (r. 360–363) launched a drive against official corruption which allowed the tax demands in Gaul to be reduced to one-third of their previous amount, while all government requirements were still met. [60] In civil legislation Julian was notable for his pro-pagan policies. All Christian sects were officially tolerated by Julian, persecution of heretics was forbidden, and non-Christian religions were encouraged. Some Christians continued to destroy temples, disrupt rituals, and break sacred images, seeking martyrdom and at times achieving it at the hands of non-Christian mobs or secular authorities some pagans attacked the Christians who had previously been involved with the destruction of temples. [61]

Julian won victories against Germans who had invaded Gaul. He launched an expensive campaign against the Persians, [46] which ended in defeat and his own death. He succeeded in marching to the Sassanid capital of Ctesiphon, but lacked adequate supplies for an assault. He burned his boats and supplies to show resolve in continuing operations, but the Sassanids began a war of attrition by burning crops. Finding himself cut off in enemy territory, he began a land retreat during which he was mortally wounded. His successor Jovian, acclaimed by a demoralized army, began his brief reign (363–364) trapped in Mesopotamia without supplies. To purchase safe passage home, he had to concede areas of northern Mesopotamia, including the strategically important fortress of Nisibis, which had been Roman since before the Peace of Nisibis in 299.

The brothers Valens (r. 364–378) and Valentinian I (r. 364–375) energetically tackled the threats of barbarian attacks on all the Western frontiers [62] and tried to alleviate the burdens of taxation, which had risen continuously over the previous forty years Valens in the East reduced the tax demand by half in his fourth year. [63]

Both were Christians and confiscated the temple lands that Julian had restored, but were generally tolerant of other beliefs. Valentinian in the West refused to intervene in religious controversy in the East, Valens had to deal with Christians who did not conform to his ideas of orthodoxy, and persecution formed part of his response. [64] The wealth of the church increased dramatically, immense resources both public and private being used for ecclesiastical construction and support of the religious life. [65] Bishops in wealthy cities were thus able to offer vast patronage Ammianus described some as "enriched from the offerings of matrons, ride seated in carriages, wearing clothing chosen with care, and serve banquets so lavish that their entertainments outdo the tables of kings". Edward Gibbon remarked that "the soldiers' pay was lavished on the useless multitudes of both sexes who could only plead the merits of abstinence and chastity", though there are no figures for the monks and nuns nor for their maintenance costs. Pagan rituals and buildings had not been cheap either the move to Christianity may not have had significant effects on the public finances. [29] Some public disorder also followed competition for prestigious posts Pope Damasus I was installed in 366 after an election whose casualties included a hundred and thirty-seven corpses in the basilica of Sicininus. [66]

Valentinian died of an apoplexy while shouting at envoys of Germanic leaders. His successors in the West were children, his sons Gratian (r. 375–383) and Valentinian II (r. 375–392). Gratian, "alien from the art of government both by temperament and by training" removed the Altar of Victory from the Senate House, and he rejected the pagan title of Pontifex Maximus. [67]

Battle of Adrianople

In 376 the East faced an enormous barbarian influx across the Danube, mostly Goths who were refugees from the Huns. They were exploited by corrupt officials rather than effectively resettled, and they took up arms, joined by more Goths and by some Alans and Huns. Valens was in Asia with his main field army, preparing for an assault on the Persians, and redirecting the army and its logistic support would have required time. Gratian's armies were distracted by Germanic invasions across the Rhine. In 378 Valens attacked the invaders with the Eastern field army, perhaps some 20,000 men—possibly only 10% of the soldiers nominally available in the Danube provinces [68] —and in the Battle of Adrianople, 9 August 378, he lost much of that army and his own life. All of the Balkan provinces were thus exposed to raiding, without effective response from the remaining garrisons who were "more easily slaughtered than sheep". [68] Cities were able to hold their own walls against barbarians who had no siege equipment, and they generally remained intact although the countryside suffered. [69]

Partial recovery in the Balkans, internal corruption and financial desperation

Gratian appointed a new Augustus, a proven general from Hispania called Theodosius. During the next four years, he partially re-established the Roman position in the East. [70] [71] These campaigns depended on effective imperial coordination and mutual trust—between 379 and 380 Theodosius controlled not only the Eastern empire, but also, by agreement, the diocese of Illyricum. [72] Theodosius was unable to recruit enough Roman troops, relying on barbarian warbands without Roman military discipline or loyalty. In contrast, during the Cimbrian War, the Roman Republic, controlling a smaller area than the western Empire, had been able to reconstitute large regular armies of citizens after greater defeats than Adrianople, and it ended that war with the near-extermination of the invading barbarian supergroups, each recorded as having more than 100,000 warriors (with allowances for the usual exaggeration of numbers by ancient authors). [73]

The final Gothic settlement was acclaimed with relief, [71] even the official panegyrist admitting that these Goths could not be expelled or exterminated, nor reduced to unfree status. [74] Instead they were either recruited into the imperial forces, or settled in the devastated provinces along the south bank of the Danube, where the regular garrisons were never fully re-established. [75] In some later accounts, and widely in recent work, this is regarded as a treaty settlement, the first time that barbarians were given a home within the Empire in which they retained their political and military cohesion. [76] No formal treaty is recorded, nor details of whatever agreement was actually made when the Goths are next mentioned in Roman records, they have different leaders and are soldiers of a sort. [77] In 391 Alaric, a Gothic leader, rebelled against Roman control. Goths attacked the emperor himself, but within a year Alaric was accepted as a leader of Theodosius's Gothic troops and this rebellion was over. [78]

Theodosius's financial position must have been difficult, since he had to pay for expensive campaigning from a reduced tax base. The business of subduing barbarian warbands also demanded substantial gifts of precious metal. [79] Nevertheless, he is represented as financially lavish, though personally frugal when on campaign. [80] At least one extra levy provoked desperation and rioting in which the emperor's statues were destroyed. [81] A contemporary reports that at his court "everything was for sale", with corruption rampant. [82] He was pious, a Nicene Christian heavily influenced by Ambrose, and implacable against heretics. In 392 he forbade even private honor to the gods, and pagan rituals such as the Olympic Games. He either ordered or connived at the widespread destruction of sacred buildings. [83]

Civil wars

Theodosius had to face a powerful usurper in the West Magnus Maximus declared himself Emperor in 383, stripped troops from the outlying regions of Britannia (probably replacing some with federate chieftains and their war-bands) and invaded Gaul. His troops killed Gratian and he was accepted as Augustus in the Gallic provinces, where he was responsible for the first official executions of Christian heretics. [84] To compensate the Western court for the loss of Gaul, Hispania, and Britannia, Theodosius ceded the diocese of Dacia and the diocese of Macedonia to their control. In 387 Maximus invaded Italy, forcing Valentinian II to flee to the East, where he accepted Nicene Christianity. Maximus boasted to Ambrose of the numbers of barbarians in his forces, and hordes of Goths, Huns, and Alans followed Theodosius. [85] Maximus negotiated with Theodosius for acceptance as Augustus of the West, but Theodosius refused, gathered his armies, and counterattacked, winning the civil war in 388. There were heavy troop losses on both sides of the conflict. Later Welsh legend has Maximus's defeated troops resettled in Armorica, instead of returning to Britannia, and by 400, Armorica was controlled by Bagaudae rather than by imperial authority. [86]

Theodosius restored Valentinian II, still a very young man, as Augustus in the West. He also appointed Arbogast, a pagan general of Frankish origin, as Valentinian's commander-in-chief and guardian. Valentinian quarreled in public with Arbogast, failed to assert any authority, and died, either by suicide or by murder, at the age of 21. Arbogast and Theodosius failed to come to terms and Arbogast nominated an imperial official, Eugenius (r. 392–394), as emperor in the West. Eugenius made some modest attempts to win pagan support, [81] and with Arbogast led a large army to fight another destructive civil war. They were defeated and killed at the Battle of the Frigidus, which was attended by further heavy losses especially among the Gothic federates of Theodosius. The north-eastern approaches to Italy were never effectively garrisoned again. [87]

Theodosius died a few months later in early 395, leaving his young sons Honorius (r. 393–423) and Arcadius (r. 383–408) as emperors. In the immediate aftermath of Theodosius's death, the magister militum Stilicho, married to Theodosius's niece, asserted himself in the West as the guardian of Honorius and commander of the remains of the defeated Western army. He also claimed control over Arcadius in Constantinople, but Rufinus, magister officiorum on the spot, had already established his own power there. Henceforward the Empire was not under the control of one man, until much of the West had been permanently lost. [88] Neither Honorius nor Arcadius ever displayed any ability either as rulers or as generals, and both lived as the puppets of their courts. [89] Stilicho tried to reunite the Eastern and Western courts under his personal control, but in doing so achieved only the continued hostility of all of Arcadius's successive supreme ministers.

The ineffectiveness of Roman military responses from Stilicho onwards has been described as "shocking", [90] with little evidence of indigenous field forces or of adequate training, discipline, pay, or supply for the barbarians who formed most of the available troops. Local defence was occasionally effective, but was often associated with withdrawal from central control and taxes in many areas, barbarians under Roman authority attacked culturally-Roman "Bagaudae". [91] [92] [93]

Corruption, in this context the diversion of public finance from the needs of the army, may have contributed greatly to the Fall. The rich senatorial aristocrats in Rome itself became increasingly influential during the fifth century they supported armed strength in theory, but did not wish to pay for it or to offer their own workers as army recruits. [94] [95] They did, however, pass large amounts of money to the Christian Church. [96] At a local level, from the early fourth century, the town councils lost their property and their power, which often became concentrated in the hands of a few local despots beyond the reach of the law. [97]

The fifth-century Western emperors, with brief exceptions, were individuals incapable of ruling effectively or even of controlling their own courts. [89] Those exceptions were responsible for brief, but remarkable resurgences of Roman power.

Without an authoritative ruler, the Balkan provinces fell rapidly into disorder. Alaric was disappointed in his hopes for promotion to magister militum after the battle of the Frigidus. He again led Gothic tribesmen in arms and established himself as an independent power, burning the countryside as far as the walls of Constantinople. [98] Alaric's ambitions for long-term Roman office were never quite acceptable to the Roman imperial courts, and his men could never settle long enough to farm in any one area. They showed no inclination to leave the Empire and face the Huns from whom they had fled in 376 indeed the Huns were still stirring up further migrations which often ended by attacking Rome in turn. Alaric's group was never destroyed nor expelled from the Empire, nor acculturated under effective Roman domination. [91] [92] [99]

Stilicho's attempts to unify the Empire, revolts, and invasions

Alaric took his Gothic army on what Stilicho's propagandist Claudian described as a "pillaging campaign" that began first in the East. [100] Alaric's forces made their way along the coast to Athens, where he sought to force a new peace upon the Romans. [100] His march in 396 passed through Thermopylae. Stilicho sailed from Italy to Greece with his remaining mobile forces, a clear threat to Rufinus' control of the Eastern empire. The bulk of Rufinus' forces were occupied with Hunnic incursions in Asia Minor and Syria, leaving Thrace undefended. Stilicho's propagandist Claudian reports that only Stilicho's attack stemmed the plundering as he pushed Alaric's forces north into Epirus. [101] Burns' interpretation is that Alaric and his men had been recruited by Rufinus's Eastern regime, and sent to Thessaly to stave off Stilicho's threat. [87] No battle took place. Zosimus adds that Stilicho's troops destroyed and pillaged too, and let Alaric's men escape with their plunder. [a]

Stilicho was forced to send some of his Eastern forces home. [102] They went to Constantinople under the command of one Gainas, a Goth with a large Gothic following. On arrival, Gainas murdered Rufinus, and was appointed magister militum for Thrace by Eutropius, the new supreme minister and the only eunuch consul of Rome, who controlled Arcadius "as if he were a sheep". [103] Stilicho obtained a few more troops from the German frontier and continued to campaign ineffectively against the Eastern empire again he was successfully opposed by Alaric and his men. During the next year, 397, Eutropius personally led his troops to victory over some Huns who were marauding in Asia Minor. With his position thus strengthened he declared Stilicho a public enemy, and he established Alaric as magister militum per Illyricum. A poem by Synesius advises the emperor to display manliness and remove a "skin-clad savage" (probably Alaric) from the councils of power and his barbarians from the Roman army. We do not know if Arcadius ever became aware of the existence of this advice, but it had no recorded effect. [104] Synesius, from a province suffering the widespread ravages of a few poor but greedy barbarians, also complained of "the peacetime war, one almost worse than the barbarian war and arising from military indiscipline and the officer's greed." [105]

The magister militum in the Diocese of Africa declared for the East and stopped the supply of grain to Rome. [87] Italy had not fed itself for centuries and could not do so now. In 398, Stilicho sent his last reserves, a few thousand men, to re-take the Diocese of Africa, and he strengthened his position further when he married his daughter Maria to Honorius. Throughout this period Stilicho, and all other generals, were desperately short of recruits and supplies for them. [106] In 400, Stilicho was charged to press into service any "laetus, Alamannus, Sarmatian, vagrant, son of a veteran" or any other person liable to serve. [107] He had reached the bottom of his recruitment pool. [108] Though personally not corrupt, he was very active in confiscating assets [103] the financial and administrative machine was not producing enough support for the army.

In 399, Tribigild's rebellion in Asia Minor allowed Gainas to accumulate a significant army (mostly Goths), become supreme in the Eastern court, and execute Eutropius. [109] He now felt that he could dispense with Alaric's services and he nominally transferred Alaric's province to the West. This administrative change removed Alaric's Roman rank and his entitlement to legal provisioning for his men, leaving his army—the only significant force in the ravaged Balkans—as a problem for Stilicho. [110] In 400, the citizens of Constantinople revolted against Gainas and massacred as many of his people, soldiers and their families, as they could catch. Some Goths at least built rafts and tried to cross the strip of sea that separates Asia from Europe the Roman navy slaughtered them. [111] By the beginning of 401, Gainas' head rode a pike through Constantinople while another Gothic general became consul. [112] Meanwhile, groups of Huns started a series of attacks across the Danube, and the Isaurians marauded far and wide in Anatolia. [113]

In 401 Stilicho travelled over the Alps to Raetia, to scrape up further troops. [114] He left the Rhine defended only by the "dread" of Roman retaliation, rather than by adequate forces able to take the field. [114] Early in spring, Alaric, probably desperate, [115] invaded Italy, and he drove Honorius westward from Mediolanum, besieging him in Hasta Pompeia in Liguria. Stilicho returned as soon as the passes had cleared, meeting Alaric in two battles (near Pollentia and Verona) without decisive results. The Goths, weakened, were allowed to retreat back to Illyricum where the Western court again gave Alaric office, though only as comes and only over Dalmatia and Pannonia Secunda rather than the whole of Illyricum. [116] Stilicho probably supposed that this pact would allow him to put Italian government into order and recruit fresh troops. [106] He may also have planned with Alaric's help to relaunch his attempts to gain control over the Eastern court. [117]

However, in 405, Stilicho was distracted by a fresh invasion of Northern Italy. Another group of Goths fleeing the Huns, led by one Radagaisus, devastated the north of Italy for six months before Stilicho could muster enough forces to take the field against them. Stilicho recalled troops from Britannia and the depth of the crisis was shown when he urged all Roman soldiers to allow their personal slaves to fight beside them. [117] His forces, including Hun and Alan auxiliaries, may in the end have totalled rather less than 15,000 men. [118] Radagaisus was defeated and executed. 12,000 prisoners from the defeated horde were drafted into Stilicho's service. [118] Stilicho continued negotiations with Alaric Flavius Aetius, son of one of Stilicho's major supporters, was sent as a hostage to Alaric in 405. In 406 Stilicho, hearing of new invaders and rebels who had appeared in the northern provinces, insisted on making peace with Alaric, probably on the basis that Alaric would prepare to move either against the Eastern court or against the rebels in Gaul. The Senate deeply resented peace with Alaric in 407, when Alaric marched into Noricum and demanded a large payment for his expensive efforts in Stilicho's interests, the senate, "inspired by the courage, rather than the wisdom, of their predecessors," [119] preferred war. One senator famously declaimed Non est ista pax, sed pactio servitutis ("This is not peace, but a pact of servitude"). [120] Stilicho paid Alaric four thousand pounds of gold nevertheless. [121] Stilicho sent Sarus, a Gothic general, over the Alps to face the usurper Constantine III, but he lost and barely escaped, having to leave his baggage to the bandits who now infested the Alpine passes. [121]

The empress Maria, daughter of Stilicho, died in 407 or early 408 and her sister Aemilia Materna Thermantia married Honorius. In the East, Arcadius died on 1 May 408 and was replaced by his son Theodosius II Stilicho seems to have planned to march to Constantinople, and to install there a regime loyal to himself. [122] He may also have intended to give Alaric a senior official position and send him against the rebels in Gaul. Before he could do so, while he was away at Ticinum at the head of a small detachment, a bloody coup against his supporters took place at Honorius's court. It was led by Stilicho's own creature, one Olympius. [123]

Stilicho's fall and Alaric's reaction

Stilicho had news of the coup at Bononia (where he was probably waiting for Alaric). [124] His army of barbarian troops, including a guard of Huns and many Goths, discussed attacking the forces of the coup, but Stilicho prevented them when he heard that the Emperor had not been harmed. Sarus's Gothic troops then massacred the Hun contingent in their sleep, and Stilicho withdrew from the quarreling remains of his army to Ravenna. He ordered that his former soldiers should not be admitted into the cities in which their families were billeted. Stilicho was forced to flee to a church for sanctuary, promised his life, and killed. [125]

Alaric was again declared an enemy of the Emperor. The conspiracy then massacred the families of the federate troops (as presumed supporters of Stilicho, although they had probably rebelled against him), and the troops defected en masse to Alaric. [126] The conspirators seem to have let their main army disintegrate, [127] and had no policy except hunting down supporters of Stilicho. [128] Italy was left without effective indigenous defence forces thereafter. [90] Heraclianus, a co-conspirator of Olympius, became governor of the Diocese of Africa, where he controlled the source of most of Italy's grain, and he supplied food only in the interests of Honorius's regime. [129]

As a declared 'enemy of the Emperor', Alaric was denied the legitimacy that he needed to collect taxes and hold cities without large garrisons, which he could not afford to detach. He again offered to move his men, this time to Pannonia, in exchange for a modest sum of money and the modest title of Comes, but he was refused as a supporter of Stilicho. [130] He moved into Italy, probably using the route and supplies arranged for him by Stilicho, [124] bypassing the imperial court in Ravenna which was protected by widespread marshland and had a port, and he menaced the city of Rome itself. In 407, there was no equivalent of the determined response to the catastrophic Battle of Cannae in 216 BCE, when the entire Roman population, even slaves, had been mobilized to resist the enemy. [131]

Alaric's military operations centred on the port of Rome, through which Rome's grain supply had to pass. Alaric's first siege of Rome in 408 caused dreadful famine within the walls. It was ended by a payment that, though large, was less than one of the richest senators could have produced. [132] The super-rich aristocrats made little contribution pagan temples were stripped of ornaments to make up the total. With promises of freedom, Alaric also recruited many of the slaves in Rome. [133]

Alaric withdrew to Tuscany and recruited more slaves. [133] Ataulf, a Goth nominally in Roman service and brother-in-law to Alaric, marched through Italy to join Alaric despite taking casualties from a small force of Hunnic mercenaries led by Olympius. Sarus was an enemy of Ataulf, and on Ataulf's arrival went back into imperial service. [134]

Alaric besieges Rome

In 409 Olympius fell to further intrigue, having his ears cut off before he was beaten to death. Alaric tried again to negotiate with Honorius, but his demands (now even more moderate, only frontier land and food [135] ) were inflated by the messenger and Honorius responded with insults, which were reported verbatim to Alaric. [136] He broke off negotiations and the standoff continued. Honorius's court made overtures to the usurper Constantine III in Gaul and arranged to bring Hunnic forces into Italy, Alaric ravaged Italy outside the fortified cities (which he could not garrison), and the Romans refused open battle (for which they had inadequate forces). [137] Late in the year Alaric sent bishops to express his readiness to leave Italy if Honorius would only grant his people a supply of grain. Honorius, sensing weakness, flatly refused. [138]

Alaric moved to Rome and captured Galla Placidia, sister of Honorius. The Senate in Rome, despite its loathing for Alaric, was now desperate enough to give him almost anything he wanted. They had no food to offer, but they tried to give him imperial legitimacy with the Senate's acquiescence, he elevated Priscus Attalus as his puppet emperor, and he marched on Ravenna. Honorius was planning to flee to Constantinople when a reinforcing army of 4,000 soldiers from the East disembarked in Ravenna. [139] These garrisoned the walls and Honorius held on. He had Constantine's principal court supporter executed and Constantine abandoned plans to march to Honorius's defence. [140] Attalus failed to establish his control over the Diocese of Africa, and no grain arrived in Rome where the famine became even more frightful. [141] Jerome reports cannibalism within the walls. [142] Attalus brought Alaric no real advantage, failing also to come to any useful agreement with Honorius (who was offered mutilation, humiliation, and exile). Indeed, Attalus's claim was a marker of threat to Honorius, and Alaric dethroned him after a few months. [143]

In 410 Alaric took Rome by starvation, sacked it for three days (there was relatively little destruction, and in some Christian holy places Alaric's men even refrained from wanton wrecking and rape), and invited its remaining barbarian slaves to join him, which many did. The city of Rome was the seat of the richest senatorial noble families and the centre of their cultural patronage to pagans it was the sacred origin of the empire, and to Christians the seat of the heir of Saint Peter, Pope Innocent I, the most authoritative bishop of the West. Rome had not fallen to an enemy since the Battle of the Allia over eight centuries before. Refugees spread the news and their stories throughout the Empire, and the meaning of the fall was debated with religious fervour. Both Christians and pagans wrote embittered tracts, blaming paganism or Christianity respectively for the loss of Rome's supernatural protection, and blaming Stilicho's earthly failures in either case. [144] [103] Some Christian responses anticipated the imminence of Judgement Day. Augustine in his book "City of God" ultimately rejected the pagan and Christian idea that religion should have worldly benefits he developed the doctrine that the City of God in heaven, undamaged by mundane disasters, was the true objective of Christians. [145] More practically, Honorius was briefly persuaded to set aside the laws forbidding pagans to be military officers, so that one Generidus could re-establish Roman control in Dalmatia. Generidus did this with unusual effectiveness his techniques were remarkable for this period, in that they included training his troops, disciplining them, and giving them appropriate supplies even if he had to use his own money. [146] The penal laws were reinstated no later than 25 August 410 and the overall trend of repression of paganism continued. [147]

Procopius mentions a story in which Honorius, on hearing the news that Rome had "perished", was shocked, thinking the news was in reference to his favorite chicken he had named "Roma". On hearing that Rome itself had fallen he breathed a sigh of relief:

At that time they say that the Emperor Honorius in Ravenna received the message from one of the eunuchs, evidently a keeper of the poultry, that Roma had perished. And he cried out and said, "And yet it has just eaten from my hands!" For he had a very large cockerel, Roma by name and the eunuch comprehending his words said that it was the city of Roma which had perished at the hands of Alaric, and the emperor with a sigh of relief answered quickly: "But I thought that my fowl Roma had perished." So great, they say, was the folly with which this emperor was possessed.

The Goths move out of Italy

Alaric then moved south, intending to sail to Africa, but his ships were wrecked in a storm and he shortly died of fever. His successor Ataulf, still regarded as an usurper and given only occasional and short-term grants of supplies, moved north into the turmoil of Gaul, where there was some prospect of food. His supergroup of barbarians are called the Visigoths in modern works: they may now have been developing their own sense of identity. [148]

The Crossing of the Rhine in 405/6 brought unmanageable numbers of Germanic and Alan barbarians (perhaps some 30,000 warriors, 100,000 people [149] ) into Gaul. They may have been trying to get away from the Huns, who about this time advanced to occupy the Great Hungarian Plain. [150] For the next few years these barbarian tribes wandered in search of food and employment, while Roman forces fought each other in the name of Honorius and a number of competing claimants to the imperial throne. [151]

The remaining troops in Britannia elevated a succession of imperial usurpers. The last, Constantine III, raised an army from the remaining troops in Britannia, invaded Gaul and defeated forces loyal to Honorius led by Sarus. Constantine's power reached its peak in 409 when he controlled Gaul and beyond, he was joint consul with Honorius [152] and his magister militum Gerontius defeated the last Roman force to try to hold the borders of Hispania. It was led by relatives of Honorius Constantine executed them. Gerontius went to Hispania where he may have settled the Sueves and the Asding Vandals. Gerontius then fell out with his master and elevated one Maximus as his own puppet emperor. He defeated Constantine and was besieging him in Arelate when Honorius's general Constantius arrived from Italy with an army (possibly, mainly of Hun mercenaries). [153] Gerontius's troops deserted him and he committed suicide. Constantius continued the siege, defeating a relieving army. Constantine surrendered in 411 with a promise that his life would be spared, and was executed. [154]

In 410, the Roman civitates of Britannia rebelled against Constantine and evicted his officials. They asked for help from Honorius, who replied that they should look to their own defence. While the British may have regarded themselves as Roman for several generations, and British armies may at times have fought in Gaul, no central Roman government is known to have appointed officials in Britannia thereafter. [155] The supply of coinage to the Diocese of Britannia ceases with Honorius. [156]

In 411, Jovinus rebelled and took over Constantine's remaining troops on the Rhine. He relied on the support of Burgundians and Alans to whom he offered supplies and land. In 413 Jovinus also recruited Sarus Ataulf destroyed their regime in the name of Honorius and both Jovinus and Sarus were executed. The Burgundians were settled on the left bank of the Rhine. Ataulf then operated in the south of Gaul, sometimes with short-term supplies from the Romans. [157] All usurpers had been defeated, but large barbarian groups remained un-subdued in both Gaul and Hispania. [155] The imperial government was quick to restore the Rhine frontier. The invading tribes of 407 moved into Spain at the end of 409 the Visigoths left Italy at the beginning of 412 and settled themselves around Narbo.

Heraclianus was still in command in the diocese of Africa of the clique that overthrew Stilicho, he was the last to retain power. In 413 he led an invasion of Italy, lost to a subordinate of Constantius, and fled back to Africa where he was murdered by Constantius's agents. [157]

In January 414 Roman naval forces blockaded Ataulf in Narbo, where he married Galla Placidia. The choir at the wedding included Attalus, a puppet emperor without revenues or soldiers. [158] Ataulf famously declared that he had abandoned his intention to set up a Gothic empire because of the irredeemable barbarity of his followers, and instead he sought to restore the Roman Empire. [159] [143] He handed Attalus over to Honorius's regime for mutilation, humiliation, and exile, and abandoned Attalus's supporters. [160] (One of them, Paulinus Pellaeus, recorded that the Goths considered themselves merciful for allowing him and his household to leave destitute, but alive, without being raped.) [158] Ataulf moved out of Gaul, to Barcelona. There his infant son by Galla Placidia was buried, and there Ataulf was assassinated by one of his household retainers, possibly a former follower of Sarus. [161] [162] His ultimate successor Wallia had no agreement with the Romans his people had to plunder in Hispania for food. [163]

Settlement of 418 barbarians within the empire

In 416 Wallia reached agreement with Constantius he sent Galla Placidia back to Honorius and received provisions, six hundred thousand modii of wheat. [164] From 416 to 418, Wallia's Goths campaigned in Hispania on Constantius's behalf, exterminating the Siling Vandals in Baetica and reducing the Alans to the point where the survivors sought the protection of the king of the Asding Vandals. (After retrenchment they formed another barbarian supergroup, but for the moment they were reduced in numbers and effectively cowed.) In 418, by agreement with Constantius, Wallia's Goths accepted land to farm in Aquitania. [165] Constantius also reinstituted an annual council of the southern Gallic provinces, to meet at Arelate. Although Constantius rebuilt the western field army to some extent, he did so only by replacing half of its units (vanished in the wars since 395) by re-graded barbarians, and by garrison troops removed from the frontier. [166] The Notitia Dignitatum gives a list of the units of the western field army circa 425. It does not give strengths for these units, but A. H. M. Jones used the Notitia to estimate the total strength of the field armies in the West at 113,000 : Gaul, “about” 35,000 Italy, “nearly” 30,000 Britain 3,000 in Spain, 10–11,000, in the diocese of Illyricum 13–14,000, and in the diocese of Africa 23,000. [167]

Constantius had married the princess Galla Placidia (despite her protests) in 417. The couple soon had two children, Honoria and Valentinian III, and Constantius was elevated to the position of Augustus in 420. This earned him the hostility of the Eastern court, which had not agreed to his elevation. [168] Nevertheless, Constantius had achieved an unassailable position at the Western court, in the imperial family, and as the able commander-in-chief of a partially restored army. [169] [170]

This settlement represented a real success for the Empire—a poem by Rutilius Namatianus celebrates his voyage back to Gaul in 417 and his confidence in a restoration of prosperity. But it marked huge losses of territory and of revenue Rutilius travelled by ship past the ruined bridges and countryside of Tuscany, and in the west the River Loire had become the effective northern boundary of Roman Gaul. [171] In the east of Gaul the Franks controlled large areas the effective line of Roman control until 455 ran from north of Cologne (lost to the Ripuarian Franks in 459) to Boulogne. The Italian areas which had been compelled to support the Goths had most of their taxes remitted for several years. [172] [173] Even in southern Gaul and Hispania large barbarian groups remained, with thousands of warriors, in their own non-Roman military and social systems. Some occasionally acknowledged a degree of Roman political control, but without the local application of Roman leadership and military power they and their individual subgroups pursued their own interests. [174]

Constantius died in 421, after only seven months as Augustus. He had been careful to make sure that there was no successor in waiting, and his own children were far too young to take his place. [169] Honorius was unable to control his own court, and the death of Constantius initiated more than ten years of instability. Initially Galla Placidia sought Honorius's favour in the hope that her son might ultimately inherit. Other court interests managed to defeat her, and she fled with her children to the Eastern court in 422. Honorius himself died, shortly before his thirty-ninth birthday, in 423. After some months of intrigue, the patrician Castinus installed Joannes as Western Emperor, but the Eastern Roman government proclaimed the child Valentinian III instead, his mother Galla Placidia acting as regent during his minority. Joannes had few troops of his own. He sent Aetius to raise help from the Huns. An Eastern army landed in Italy, captured Joannes, cut his hand off, abused him in public, and killed him with most of his senior officials. Aetius returned, three days after Joannes' death, at the head of a substantial Hunnic army which made him the most powerful general in Italy. After some fighting, Placidia and Aetius came to an agreement the Huns were paid off and sent home, while Aetius received the position of magister militum. [175]

Galla Placidia, as Augusta, mother of the Emperor, and his guardian until 437, could maintain a dominant position in court, but women in Ancient Rome did not exercise military power, and she could not herself become a general. She tried for some years to avoid reliance on a single dominant military figure, maintaining a balance of power between her three senior officers, Aetius (magister militum in Gaul), Count Boniface governor in the Diocese of Africa, and Flavius Felix magister militum praesentalis in Italy. [176] Meanwhile, the Empire deteriorated seriously. Apart from the losses in the Diocese of Africa, Hispania was slipping out of central control and into the hands of local rulers and Suevic bandits. In Gaul the Rhine frontier had collapsed, the Visigoths in Aquitaine may have launched further attacks on Narbo and Arelate, and the Franks, increasingly powerful although disunited, were the major power in the north-east. Aremorica was controlled by Bagaudae, local leaders not under the authority of the Empire. [177] Aetius at least campaigned vigorously and mostly victoriously, defeating aggressive Visigoths, Franks, fresh Germanic invaders, Bagaudae in Aremorica, and a rebellion in Noricum. [178] Not for the first time in Rome's history, a triumvirate of mutually distrustful rulers proved unstable. In 427 Felix tried to recall Boniface from Africa he refused, and overcame Felix's invading force. Boniface probably recruited some Vandal troops among others. [179]

In 428 the Vandals and Alans were united under the able, ferocious, and long-lived king Genseric he moved his entire people to Tarifa near Gibraltar, divided them into 80 groups nominally of 1,000 people (perhaps 20,000 warriors in total), [149] and crossed from Hispania to Mauretania without opposition. (The Straits of Gibraltar were not an important thoroughfare at the time, and there were no significant fortifications nor military presence at this end of the Mediterranean.) They spent a year moving slowly to Numidia, defeating Boniface. He returned to Italy where Aetius had recently had Felix executed. Boniface was promoted to magister militum and earned the enmity of Aetius, who may have been absent in Gaul at the time. In 432 the two met at the Battle of Ravenna, which left Aetius's forces defeated and Boniface mortally wounded. Aetius temporarily retired to his estates, but after an attempt to murder him he raised another Hunnic army (probably by conceding parts of Pannonia to them) and in 433 he returned to Italy, overcoming all rivals. He never threatened to become an Augustus himself and thus maintained the support of the Eastern court, where Valentinian's cousin Theodosius II reigned until 450. [180]

Aetius campaigned vigorously, somewhat stabilizing the situation in Gaul and in Hispania. He relied heavily on his forces of Huns. With a ferocity celebrated centuries later in the Nibelungenlied, the Huns slaughtered many Burgundians on the middle Rhine, re-establishing the survivors as Roman allies, the first Kingdom of the Burgundians. This may have returned some sort of Roman authority to Trier. [181] Eastern troops reinforced Carthage, temporarily halting the Vandals, who in 435 agreed to limit themselves to Numidia and leave the most fertile parts of North Africa in peace. Aetius concentrated his limited military resources to defeat the Visigoths again, and his diplomacy restored a degree of order to Hispania. [182] However, his general Litorius was badly defeated by the Visigoths at Toulouse, and a new Suevic king, Rechiar, began vigorous assaults on what remained of Roman Hispania. At one point Rechiar even allied with Bagaudae. These were Romans not under imperial control some of their reasons for rebellion may be indicated by the remarks of a Roman captive under Attila who was happy in his lot, giving a lively account of "the vices of a declining empire, of which he had so long been the victim the cruel absurdity of the Roman princes, unable to protect their subjects against the public enemy, unwilling to trust them with arms for their own defence the intolerable weight of taxes, rendered still more oppressive by the intricate or arbitrary modes of collection the obscurity of numerous and contradictory laws the tedious and expensive forms of judicial proceedings the partial administration of justice and the universal corruption, which increased the influence of the rich, and aggravated the misfortunes of the poor." [183]

Vegetius's advice on re-forming an effective army may be dated to the early 430s, [184] [185] [186] (though a date in the 390s has also been suggested). [187] He identified many deficiencies in the military, especially mentioning that the soldiers were no longer properly equipped:

From the foundation of the city till the reign of the Emperor Gratian, the foot wore cuirasses and helmets. But negligence and sloth having by degrees introduced a total relaxation of discipline, the soldiers began to think their armor too heavy, as they seldom put it on. They first requested leave from the Emperor to lay aside the cuirass and afterwards the helmet. In consequence of this, our troops in their engagements with the Goths were often overwhelmed with their showers of arrows. Nor was the necessity of obliging the infantry to resume their cuirasses and helmets discovered, notwithstanding such repeated defeats, which brought on the destruction of so many great cities. Troops, defenseless and exposed to all the weapons of the enemy, are more disposed to fly than fight. What can be expected from a foot-archer without cuirass or helmet, who cannot hold at once his bow and shield or from the ensigns whose bodies are naked, and who cannot at the same time carry a shield and the colors? The foot soldier finds the weight of a cuirass and even of a helmet intolerable. This is because he is so seldom exercised and rarely puts them on. [188]

A religious polemic of about this time complains bitterly of the oppression and extortion [89] suffered by all but the richest Romans. Many wished to flee to the Bagaudae or even to foul-smelling barbarians. "Although these men differ in customs and language from those with whom they have taken refuge, and are unaccustomed too, if I may say so, to the nauseous odor of the bodies and clothing of the barbarians, yet they prefer the strange life they find there to the injustice rife among the Romans. So you find men passing over everywhere, now to the Goths, now to the Bagaudae, or whatever other barbarians have established their power anywhere . We call those men rebels and utterly abandoned, whom we ourselves have forced into crime. For by what other causes were they made Bagaudae save by our unjust acts, the wicked decisions of the magistrates, the proscription and extortion of those who have turned the public exactions to the increase of their private fortunes and made the tax indictions their opportunity for plunder?" [189]

Gildas, a 6th-century monk and author of De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae, wrote that "No sooner were the ravages of the enemy checked, than the island [Britain] was deluged with a most extraordinary plenty of all things, greater than was before known, and with it grew up every kind of luxury and licentiousness." [190]

Nevertheless, effective imperial protection from barbarian ravages was eagerly sought. About this time authorities in Britannia asked Aetius for help: "To Aetius, now consul for the third time: the groans of the Britons." And again a little further, thus: "The barbarians drive us to the sea the sea throws us back on the barbarians: thus two modes of death await us, we are either slain or drowned." The Romans, however, could not assist them. [190]

The Visigoths passed another waymark on their journey to full independence they made their own foreign policy, sending princesses to make (rather unsuccessful) marriage alliances with Rechiar of the Sueves and with Huneric, son of the Vandal king Genseric. [191]

In 439 the Vandals moved eastward (temporarily abandoning Numidia) and captured Carthage, where they established an independent state with a powerful navy. This brought immediate financial crisis to the Western Empire the diocese of Africa was prosperous, normally required few troops to keep it secure, contributed large tax revenues, and exported wheat to feed Rome and many other areas. [192] Roman troops assembled in Sicily, but the planned counter-attack never happened. Huns attacked the Eastern empire, [193] and "the troops, which had been sent against Genseric, were hastily recalled from Sicily the garrisons, on the side of Persia, were exhausted and a military force was collected in Europe, formidable by their arms and numbers, if the generals had understood the science of command, and the soldiers the duty of obedience. The armies of the Eastern empire were vanquished in three successive engagements . From the Hellespont to Thermopylae, and the suburbs of Constantinople, [Attila] ravaged, without resistance, and without mercy, the provinces of Thrace and Macedonia" [194] Attila's invasions of the East were stopped by the Theodosian Walls, and at this heavily fortified Eastern end of the Mediterranean there were no significant barbarian invasions across the sea into the rich southerly areas of Anatolia, the Levant, and Egypt. [195] Despite internal and external threats, and more religious discord than the West, these provinces remained prosperous contributors to tax revenue despite the ravages of Attila's armies and the extortions of his peace treaties, tax revenue generally continued to be adequate for the essential state functions of the Eastern empire. [196] [197]

Genseric settled his Vandals as landowners [198] and in 442 was able to negotiate very favourable peace terms with the Western court. He kept his latest gains and his eldest son Huneric was honoured by betrothal to Valentinian III's daughter Eudocia, who carried the legitimacy of the conjoined Valentinianic and Theodosian dynasties. Huneric's Gothic wife was suspected of trying to poison her father-in-law Genseric he sent her home without her nose or ears, and his Gothic alliance came to an early end. [199] The Romans regained Numidia, and Rome again received a grain supply from Africa.

The losses of income from the Diocese of Africa were equivalent to the costs of nearly 40,000 infantry or over 20,000 cavalry. [200] The imperial regime had to increase taxes. Despite admitting that the peasantry could pay no more, and that a sufficient army could not be raised, the imperial regime protected the interests of landowners displaced from Africa and allowed wealthy individuals to avoid taxes. [201] [202]

444–453 attacks by the empire of Attila the Hun

In 444, the Huns were united under Attila. His subjects included Huns, outnumbered several times over by other groups, predominantly Germanic. [203] His power rested partly on his continued ability to reward his favoured followers with precious metals, [204] and he continued to attack the Eastern Empire until 450, by when he had extracted vast sums of money and many other concessions. [205]

Attila may not have needed any excuse to turn West, but he received one in the form of a plea for help from Honoria, the Emperor's sister, who was being forced into a marriage which she resented. Attila claimed Honoria as his wife and half of the Western Empire's territory as his dowry. Faced with refusal, he invaded Gaul in 451 with a huge army. In the bloody battle of the Catalaunian Plains the invasion was stopped by the combined forces of the barbarians within the Western empire, coordinated by Aetius and supported by what troops he could muster. The next year, Attila invaded Italy and proceeded to march upon Rome, but an outbreak of disease in his army, lack of supplies, reports that Eastern Roman troops were attacking his noncombatant population in Pannonia, and, possibly, Pope Leo's plea for peace induced him to halt this campaign. Attila unexpectedly died a year later (453) and his empire crumbled as his followers fought for power. The life of Severinus of Noricum gives glimpses of the general insecurity, and ultimate retreat of the Romans on the Upper Danube, in the aftermath of Attila's death. The Romans were without adequate forces the barbarians inflicted haphazard extortion, murder, kidnap, and plunder on the Romans and on each other. "So long as the Roman dominion lasted, soldiers were maintained in many towns at the public expense to guard the boundary wall. When this custom ceased, the squadrons of soldiers and the boundary wall were blotted out together. The troop at Batavis, however, held out. Some soldiers of this troop had gone to Italy to fetch the final pay to their comrades, and no one knew that the barbarians had slain them on the way." [206]

In 454 Aetius was personally stabbed to death by Valentinian, who was himself murdered by the dead general's supporters a year later. [207] "[Valentinian] thought he had slain his master he found that he had slain his protector: and he fell a helpless victim to the first conspiracy which was hatched against his throne." [208] A rich senatorial aristocrat, Petronius Maximus, who had encouraged both murders, then seized the throne. He broke the engagement between Eudocia and Huneric, prince of the Vandals, and had time to send Avitus to ask for the help of the Visigoths in Gaul [209] before a Vandal fleet arrived in Italy. Petronius was unable to muster any effective defence and was killed by a mob as he tried to flee the city. The Vandals entered Rome, and plundered it for two weeks. Despite the shortage of money for the defence of the state, considerable private wealth had accumulated since the previous sack in 410. The Vandals sailed away with large amounts of treasure and also with the princess Eudocia, who became the wife of one Vandal king and the mother of another. [210]

The Vandals conquered Sicily, and their fleet became a constant danger to Roman sea trade and to the coasts and islands of the western Mediterranean. [211]

Avitus, at the Visigothic court in Burdigala, declared himself Emperor. He moved on Rome with Visigothic support which gained his acceptance by Majorian and Ricimer, commanders of the remaining army of Italy. This was the first time that a barbarian kingdom had played a key role in the imperial succession. [212] Avitus's son-in-law Sidonius Apollinaris wrote propaganda to present the Visigothic king Theoderic II as a reasonable man with whom a Roman regime could do business. [213] Theoderic's payoff included precious metal from stripping the remaining public ornaments of Italy, [214] and an unsupervised campaign in Hispania. There he not only defeated the Sueves, executing his brother-in-law Rechiar, but he also plundered Roman cities. [213] The Burgundians expanded their kingdom in the Rhone valley and the Vandals took the remains of the Diocese of Africa. [215] In 456 the Visigothic army was too heavily engaged in Hispania to be an effective threat to Italy, and Ricimer had just destroyed a pirate fleet of sixty Vandal ships Majorian and Ricimer marched against Avitus and defeated him near Placentia. He was forced to become Bishop of Placentia, and died (possibly murdered) a few weeks later. [216]

Majorian and Ricimer were now in control of Italy. Ricimer was the son of a Suevic king, and his mother was the daughter of a Gothic one, so he could not aspire to an imperial throne. After some months, allowing for negotiation with the new emperor of Constantinople and the defeat of 900 Alamannic invaders of Italy by one of his subordinates, Majorian was acclaimed as Augustus. Majorian is described by Gibbon as "a great and heroic character". [217] He rebuilt the army and navy of Italy with vigour and set about recovering the remaining Gallic provinces, which had not recognized his elevation. He defeated the Visigoths at the Battle of Arelate, reducing them to federate status and obliging them to give up their claims in Hispania he moved on to subdue the Burgundians, the Gallo-Romans around Lugdunum (who were granted tax concessions and whose senior officials were appointed from their own ranks) and the Suevi and Bagaudae in Hispania. Marcellinus, magister militum in Dalmatia and the pagan general of a well-equipped army, acknowledged him as emperor and recovered Sicily from the Vandals. [218] Aegidius also acknowledged Majorian and took effective charge of northern Gaul. (Aegidius may also have used the title "King of the Franks". [219] ) Abuses in tax collection were reformed and the city councils were strengthened, both actions necessary to rebuild the strength of the Empire but disadvantageous to the richest aristocrats. [220] Majorian prepared a fleet at Carthago Nova for the essential reconquest of the Diocese of Africa.

The fleet was burned by traitors, and Majorian made peace with the Vandals and returned to Italy. Here Ricimer met him, arrested him, and executed him five days later. Marcellinus in Dalmatia and Aegidius around Soissons in northern Gaul rejected both Ricimer and his puppets and maintained some version of Roman rule in their areas. [221] Ricimer later ceded Narbo and its hinterland to the Visigoths for their help against Aegidius this made it impossible for Roman armies to march from Italy to Hispania. Ricimer was then the effective ruler of Italy (but little else) for several years. From 461 to 465 the pious Italian aristocrat Libius Severus reigned. There is no record of anything significant that he even tried to achieve, he was never acknowledged by the East whose help Ricimer needed, and he died conveniently in 465.

After two years without a Western Emperor, the Eastern court nominated Anthemius, a successful general who had a strong claim on the Eastern throne. He arrived in Italy with an army, supported by Marcellinus and his fleet he married his daughter to Ricimer, and he was proclaimed Augustus in 467. In 468, at vast expense, the Eastern empire assembled an enormous force to help the West retake the Diocese of Africa. Marcellinus rapidly drove the Vandals from Sardinia and Sicily, and a land invasion evicted them from Tripolitania. The commander in chief with the main force defeated a Vandal fleet near Sicily and landed at Cape Bon. Here Genseric offered to surrender, if he could have a five-day truce to prepare the process. He used the respite to prepare a full-scale attack preceded by fireships, which destroyed most of the Roman fleet and killed many of its soldiers. The Vandals were confirmed in their possession of the Diocese of Africa and they retook Sardinia and Sicily. Marcellinus was murdered, possibly on orders from Ricimer. [222] The Praetorian prefect of Gaul, Arvandus, tried to persuade the new king of the Visigoths to rebel, on the grounds that Roman power in Gaul was finished anyway, but he refused.

Anthemius was still in command of an army in Italy. Additionally, in northern Gaul, a British army led by one Riothamus, operated in imperial interests. [223] Anthemius sent his son over the Alps, with an army, to request that the Visigoths return southern Gaul to Roman control. This would have allowed the Empire land access to Hispania again. The Visigoths refused, defeated the forces of both Riothamus and Anthemius, and with the Burgundians took over almost all of the remaining imperial territory in southern Gaul.

Ricimer then quarreled with Anthemius, and besieged him in Rome, which surrendered in July 472 after more months of starvation. [224] Anthemius was captured and executed (on Ricimer's orders) by the Burgundian prince Gundobad. In August Ricimer died of a pulmonary haemorrhage. Olybrius, his new emperor, named Gundobad as his patrician, then died himself shortly thereafter. [225]

After the death of Olybrius there was a further interregnum until March 473, when Gundobad proclaimed Glycerius emperor. He may have made some attempt to intervene in Gaul if so, it was unsuccessful. [226]

In 474 Julius Nepos, nephew and successor of the general Marcellinus, arrived in Rome with soldiers and authority from the eastern emperor Leo I. Gundobad had already left to contest the Burgundian throne in Gaul [226] and Glycerius gave up without a fight, retiring to become bishop of Salona in Dalmatia. [226]

In 475, Orestes, a former secretary of Attila, drove Julius Nepos out of Ravenna and proclaimed his own son Flavius Momyllus Romulus Augustus (Romulus Augustulus) to be Emperor, on October 31. His surname 'Augustus' was given the diminutive form 'Augustulus' by rivals because he was still a minor, and he was never recognized outside of Italy as a legitimate ruler. [227]

In 476, Orestes refused to grant Odoacer and the Heruli federated status, prompting an invasion. Orestes fled to the city of Pavia on August 23, 476, where the city's bishop gave him sanctuary. Orestes was soon forced to flee Pavia when Odoacer's army broke through the city walls and ravaged the city. Odoacer's army chased Orestes to Piacenza, where they captured and executed him on August 28, 476.

On September 4, 476, Odoacer forced then 16-year-old Romulus Augustulus, whom his father Orestes had proclaimed to be Rome's Emperor, to abdicate. After deposing Romulus, Odoacer did not execute him. The Anonymus Valesianus wrote that Odoacer, "taking pity on his youth", spared Romulus' life and granted him an annual pension of 6,000 solidi before sending him to live with relatives in Campania. [228] [229] Odoacer then installed himself as ruler over Italy, and sent the Imperial insignia to Constantinople. [230]

By convention, the Western Roman Empire is deemed to have ended on 4 September 476, when Odoacer deposed Romulus Augustulus and proclaimed himself ruler of Italy, but this convention is subject to many qualifications. In Roman constitutional theory, the Empire was still simply united under one emperor, implying no abandonment of territorial claims. In areas where the convulsions of the dying Empire had made organized self-defence legitimate, rump states continued under some form of Roman rule after 476. Julius Nepos still claimed to be Emperor of the West and controlled Dalmatia until his murder in 480. Syagrius son of Aegidius ruled the Domain of Soissons until his murder in 487. [231] The indigenous inhabitants of Mauretania developed kingdoms of their own, independent of the Vandals, with strong Roman traits. They again sought Imperial recognition with the reconquests of Justinian I, and they put up effective resistance to the Muslim conquest of the Maghreb. [232] While the civitates of Britannia sank into a level of material development inferior even to their pre-Roman Iron Age ancestors, [233] they maintained identifiably Roman traits for some time, and they continued to look to their own defence as Honorius had authorized. [234] [235]

Odoacer began to negotiate with the East Roman (Byzantine) Emperor Zeno, who was busy dealing with unrest in the East. Zeno eventually granted Odoacer the status of patrician and accepted him as his own viceroy of Italy. Zeno, however, insisted that Odoacer had to pay homage to Julius Nepos as the Emperor of the Western Empire. Odoacer never returned any territory or real power, but he did issue coins in the name of Julius Nepos throughout Italy. The murder of Julius Nepos in 480 (Glycerius may have been among the conspirators) prompted Odoacer to invade Dalmatia, annexing it to his Kingdom of Italy. In 488 the Eastern emperor authorized a troublesome Goth, Theoderic (later known as "the Great") to take Italy. After several indecisive campaigns, in 493 Theoderic and Odoacer agreed to rule jointly. They celebrated their agreement with a banquet of reconciliation, at which Theoderic's men murdered Odoacer's, and Theoderic personally cut Odoacer in half. [236]

The mostly powerless, but still influential Western Roman Senate continued to exist in the city of Rome under the rule of the Ostrogothic kingdom and, later, the Byzantine Empire for at least another century, before disappearing at an unknown date in the early 7th century. [237]

The Roman Empire was not only a political unity enforced by the use of military power. It was also the combined and elaborated civilization of the Mediterranean basin and beyond. It included manufacture, trade, and architecture, widespread secular literacy, written law, and an international language of science and literature. [236] The Western barbarians lost much of these higher cultural practices, but their redevelopment in the Middle Ages by polities aware of the Roman achievement formed the basis for the later development of Europe. [238]

Observing the cultural and archaeological continuities through and beyond the period of lost political control, the process has been described as a complex cultural transformation, rather than a fall. [239]

History Lists

Obviously modern armies would make quick work of any ancient military, but I am judging an Army based on how well they dominated in their time. Brilliant strategists like Hannibal of Carthage and Napoleon are not listed because they lost wars and did not sustain an empire. They would be listed among the greatest commanders of all time along with Alexander, Julius Caesar, and Attila. An Empire builder is a politician, strategist, economist, and leader. The rise of an empire that is sustained throughout time is the real legacy of a great military. Here is a list of the most dominant militaries of their day. The dates listed are the peak of power.

Egypt 1274 B.C. The rise of Egypt as a world power was steady over two thousand years. Egypt was basically a set of villages that defended the fertile Nile River Valley on both sides from foreigners trying to settle there. The invasion of Egypt by the Hyskos (Syria) in 17 th Century B.C. led to the formation of a standing army and the beginning of the New Empire. The major advance in weapons technology and warfare began around 1600 BC when the Egyptians fought and finally defeated the Hyksos people. It was during this period the horse and chariot were introduced into Egypt. They fought wars against powerful Near Eastern kingdoms like Mitanni , the Hittites , the Assyrians and Babylonians . The Battle of Kadesh (1274) took place between the forces of Ramesses II (The same guy that killed all the Jewish Babies)and the Hittites of Muwatalli II at the city of Kadesh , in modern Syria . Egypt was ambushed crossing the Orontes River and routed. Egypt lost control of the Middle East and allowed the rise of Assyrians.

Assyrians 612 B.C. Assyria is considered to be the worlds first Empire. They competed with Babylonia and Egypt for dominance in the Middle East for centuries. They took control of Babylonia in 703 B.C. They destroyed all of Israel and enslaved the population. The tiny Kingdom of Judea was surrounded and just when it seemed that Jerusalem would fall, the Assyrian Army was infected with the plague and retreated. In 701 B.C. they faced a coalition of Egyptian, Phoenician, Philistine, and Jewish armies and crushed them all. They went on to conquer Egypt in 671 B.C. Upon King Ashurbanipal’s death in 627 BC, the empire began to disintegrate rapidly. The Assyrian Capital city of Nineveh was sacked by Babylonians in 612 B.C. and all Assyrian territory was over run by the Persian Empire by 609 B.C.

Persia 480 B.C. The Persians conquered all of southern Asia (the “stan” countries) up to the boarders of China and India. They held all of the middle east including, Anatolia , Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Holy Land. They invaded Europe, and conquered Thrace up to the Danube River. The Greek War devastated the vast numbers of Persian troops. Even though they defeated Sparta and Athens, the loss in the naval battle of Salamis to the combined Greek Fleet led to the withdrawal of Persia from Europe. If the Persians held the Greek cities, western civilization would have been very different.

Macedonia 323 BC: Alexander never lost a battle in 12 years of constant war. Alexander conquered the Persian Empire , including Anatolia , Syria , Phoenicia , Judea , Gaza , Egypt , Bactria , and Mesopotamia , and extended the boundaries of his own empire as far as Punjab , India . Alexander’s victory over vastly superior Persia forces at the battle of Gaugamela is one of the most important and innovative battles in history. Persian chariots, which were unstoppable up to this point, were considered obsolete after Alexander’s tactics obliterated Persian Chariots. Prior to his death at age 33, Alexander had already made plans for military and mercantile expansions into the Arabian peninsula , after which he was to turn his armies to the west ( Carthage , Rome , and Spain). Alexander’s battle strategies and system of governing were closely studied and implemented into the Roman Republic.

Roman Republic 49 B.C. By the first century B.C. Rome controlled every inch of shore touching the Mediterranean as well as Britain and Gaul (modern France). Julius Caesar defeated a combined Gallic Army and held the Governorship of Gaul at the same time as being consul of Rome. The senate thought he had too much power, and they ordered him to disband his army and return to Rome to stand trial for violations of the constitution. He entered Rome with his army and Civil War led to the eventual downfall of the Roman Republic.

Roman Empire 117: Rome was a world power for so long that it is tough to come up with the peak of power. The largest territory was in 117 under Emperor Trajan when Armenia, Anatolia, and Mesopotamia were conquered from the Parthian Empire. Trajan’s successor Hadrian abandoned the middle east because he did not believe they could defend the cities so far from Rome. They defeated Germania in several wars, but were never able to maintain a hold north of the Rhine River. They were smart enough to avoid land wars in Asia because they understood supply lines and communication. Rome was founded in 1000 B.C. and the eternal city officially fell in 476 but the empire continued in Constantinople until 1453, when the Ottoman Turks captured the city.

Huns 453: Attila united central Asian nomads into an elite mobile fighting force that raided cities and left them in ashes. Three Norse sagas depict Attila as a hero and his tactics may have influenced the Vikings. The Huns territory stretched from China (The Great Wall) to Germany, and from the Baltic to the Danube River in Eastern Europe. They pushed the Goths, Vandals, and many other Germanic tribes into Roman territory . Rome had to defend the entire border of the empire, so they were stretched too thin. Rome had to ally with the Germanic tribes and provide them with weapons, food, land, etc to guard against Hunnic plundering. Eventually, Rome granted Attila land to settle on, modern day Hungary, and paid him a tribute in Gold. When the Emperor Valentinian’s sister Honoria proposed to Attila, he invaded Italy to claim half of the Roman Empire as dowry. Attila was defeated at Chalons, France by a combined Roman, Gothic Army. He returned the next year and invaded Italy. Northern Roman provinces left their homes to live in on the many small islands in the Venetian lagoon which became the city of Venice. In 452, Pope Leo I pleaded with Attila to spare Rome, and he agreed leaving Italy. He died in 453 before he could capture Constantinople. Although the Roman Empire officially fell in 476, the Fall of Rome was Attila the Hun’s doing.

Arab Empire 743: The Umayyad dynasty under caliph Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik marked the greatest extent of the Muslim empire. Their rule stretched from Spain to India. They controlled Spain, North Africa, The Middle east, Persia and western India (Pakistan). The Muslims were defeated at the battle of Tours in Spain by Frankish King Charles Martel. This was the end of Islamic expansion into Western Europe. Hisham continued fighting the Byzantine Empire in Asia Minor and the Near East. They forced religious conversions of Pagans. Surprisingly, they allowed Christians and Jews to practice their faith, although they were placed into a higher tax bracket. Before the Crusades, the Muslims respected Christians and Jews rights to worship because they believe in the same God.

Holy Roman Empire 814: Charles I, King of the Franks or Charlemagne was crowned the first holy roman emperor on December 25, 800. He conquered most of Europe and converted all lands to Roman Catholicism through force if necessary. The conquest of Spain eventually pushed the Islamic Moors out of Europe. The Roman Catholics dominated Europe for the next 700 years until the protestant reformation caused several nations to split with the Holy Roman Empire. The empire formed by Charlemagne lasted until 1806 when the last emperor Francis II was defeated by Napoleon.

Byzantine Empire 1054: The Re-conquest of Crete and Cyprus and the expansion into Syria and Northern Iraq extended the Byzantine power throughout the Eastern Mediterranean again. The empire stretched from Armenia to Southern Italy. They defeated the Bulgarian empire and controlled all of the Balkans up to the borders with Hungary. The split of the Catholic and Orthodox Church in 1054 caused weakening relations with Rome. New enemies emerged as Normans invaded southern Italy, and the Turks conquered Armenia and Asia Minor. The Empire lasted until 1453 when the Turks captured the capital city of Constantinople.

The Vikings may have been the most fearsome group in the 9 th -11 th centuries, but they were not united under one ruler, and can not really be considered one military group. They did however control land from the Arctic to Baghdad, and North America (500 years before Columbus) to The Black Sea and everywhere in between. They conquered parts of France, Spain, Italy, and all of England in 1066 (the last successful invasion of England). The Russian Czars all the way up to present day Russians are Viking decedents. Nationalism in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, as well as Christianization of settlements led to the end of the Viking Age.

Mongols 1279: Genghis Kahn’s grandson Kublai Kahn ruled the largest contiguous empire in world history. China (The Great wall did not work again), Russia, most of the Middle East, and Eastern Europe fell to the Mongols. They were fighting the the German Teutonic Knights, and the Japanese Samurai at the same time! How would things be different today if the Mongols did not turn back at Vienna and instead rode through Western Europe? The enlightenment may not have happened for a few hundred more years. After they left Europe, they conquered Korea from the Japanese Shogun, then tried unsuccessfully to invade Japan in 1281. Japan was saved from the Mongol fleet by a sudden violent storm that destroyed many of the invading ships. The Japanese called the storm Kamikaze, (the divine wind). Unity of the Mongol tribes was never as strong following the defeat. In 1368 China revolted and pushed out the Mongols (Yuan) to form the Ming dynasty.

Ottoman Empire: 1566: Suleiman the magnificent conquered Belgrade and the Kingdom of Hungary as well as most of central Europe. He laid siege to Vienna but failed to take the city. In the East, they captured Baghdad from the Persians and controlled all of the Middle East from Mesopotamia to Egypt. With access to the Persian Gulf, they developed the worlds best Navy. The empire expanded by defeating Spain and conquering Algeria and Tunisia. The Turks actually evacuated Jews from Christian Lands during the inquisition and returned them to safety in the Ottoman controlled Holy Land. Continued wars with Austria, Persia, and the newly emerging European powers weakened the empire. The Ottomans lasted until 1919 when British helped unite the Arabs and Iraq to fight against Turkish rule during WWI. The British and French then took control of all former Ottoman regions. Ottoman remnants settled in Asia Minor, which eventually became the nation of Turkey. The Balkan provinces were given their independence, but Britain governed Egypt, Palestine, Arabia, Iraq, and Iran until stable governments could be put in place. Sound familiar?

British Empire 1783: British had control of the all of the world’s oceans. Australia, India, Southeast Asia, Africa, North and South America and everywhere in between were controlled by the British. They were mainly a naval power, but still, the American Revolution was histories greatest upset. The British fought wars on six continents and four Oceans simultaneously. The loss of America in 1783 did little to hurt British interests world wide. India and Burma were granted independence. Britain granted parliamentary control of South Africa, Australia, and Canada to the local people who agreed to maintain loyal to the British Monarchy. The influences of British colonialism formed the modern world as we know it.

Russian Empire 1856: After the defeat of Napoleon in 1812, Russia was considered militarily invincible. They controlled the territory from The Pacific Ocean to the Baltic Sea, and the Arctic Ocean in the North to the Caucus Mountains in the South. The empire spanned over 6000 miles and 11 time zones. The advance south into Ukraine and dominance of the Black Sea led to the Crimean war. The first modern war was fought by a joint force of France, Britain, Sardinia and the Ottoman Empire against Russia. Even though Russia dominated the war, Russian Czar Nicholas I agreed to a peace treaty that severely weakened Russian influence in Europe. The peace settlement of the Crimean war actually led to WWI.

Third Reich 1942: I am breaking my rule about a long lasting empire here, but the Germans became so powerful so fast that they deserve mention. It took Russia, Britain, France, and the United States to break the German military machine. They conquered France in 40 days, along with most of Europe. The two front war and loss of Air and Sea supremacy weakened the Germans. The key to the turnaround was the Greek resistance. They held out fighting man to man in the streets for 10 months. That allowed the allies to regroup and the Russian Red Army was formed. If not for the Greek resistance, Hitler would have certainly captured western Russia. Then he could have turned west and taken Britain before America was entrenched there. It would have been a very different war after that!

Turkey on the Fault Lines

The Hittites, who made their empire in the 14 th century BC, can be called one of the original inhabitants of the land. Earlier than that in the Indo-European migrations era from 4000 to 1000 BC, the whiter race had expanded from the Mesopotamian &lsquocradle of civilization&rsquo, towards the east and the west. Theoretically, in the first wave of migration towards the east, these people who were pushed as far as the Mongolian steppes, we call them the Mongolians today. And in the second wave, these people spread all across Central Asia, extending right into the Mongolian lands, and we call them the Turkic people today.

After the Hittites, Anatolia came under the invasions of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, founded by Cyrus the Great (600BC), the Hellenistic rule brought by the advents of Alexander the Great (300BC), and later the Byzantine rule brought under the Romans (

200BC &ndash 700AD). The Byzantine rule was severely fracture by the advents of the Arabs. Thus in this land, was amalgamated culture and beliefs, in from a variety of strains.

Meanwhile the Turkic people had established many strongholds throughout Central Asia and were thought of as a brotherly race among the Mongols. So much so that Genghis Khan forged the initial Mongol Empire in Central Asia (

1200AD), starting with the unification of the Mongol and Turkic confederations of Merkits, Tartars and Mongols. For this reason many empires that the Mongols established are also said to be of Turkic origin &ndash most of the Mongol Empires converted to Islam at their peaks in power.

It was the Muslim Empire of Seljuk founded by Tughril Beg in 1037 in present day Kazakhstan that slowly united the Muslim lands under its rule. And under them, for the first time, almost the whole of Anatolia was in the reign of Islam, pushing the fading Byzantine to its edges (later the Ottomans ended the Byzantines). The Seljuk brought the Turko-Persian culture to Anatolia and settled Turkic tribes therein, leading to the progressive Turkicization of the land &ndash as a white race entered a brown one. And slowly the land of the Anatolians, Armenians, Greeks and Phrygians became the land of the Turks &ndash and perhaps at that time the Turkish impression was successful in erasing the faulting that could emerge between in invading and the invaded.

The Mongols invaded Anatolia in the 1260s and fragmented it into small emirates called beyliks. One of these Beyliks, was given to Ertugrul, of the Turkic Kayi tribe that had fled the Mongol onslaught in Central Asia into Anatolia. After Ertugrul, his son Osman Bey, started expanding his territory towards the north &ndash Osman announced independence of his small principality from the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum in 1299 &ndash without a hint that 200 years down his line, he would be called the founder of the great Ottoman Empire.

Certainly one century of the Seljuk and almost six centuries of the Ottomans was nothing short of a blessing for Anatolia, making the Turks as much the people of the land as any predecessors. But the racial fault line is one that always serves to make cracks &ndash cracks that become prominent whenever the surface is weak.

Like at the end of the Ottoman period, when the British and French were competing for colonies all over the world, owing to their advances from the Industrial Revolution &ndash and when the Ottoman&rsquos had become too decadent to catch-up with the military might or economic progress of the new invaders &ndash at this time the whole Arab World came out against the Ottoman&rsquos, blaming them to be white, non-Arab hegemons, responsible for all their losses.

The Ottomans who had at their peak ruled all land from Somalia to Algiers, from Baku at the Caspian Sea to Budapest in Hungary and from Athens to the Horn of Africa &ndash had been thrown into a series of losses since Napoleon&rsquos brief invasion of Egypt in 1798, the 1830 conquest of Algeria by France and with the Crimean War, in 1853. The Ottoman&rsquos were overwhelmed by the speed and fire-power of their opponents and found no other way to save themselves but by opening themselves to Western culture and technology, which they tried in the Tanzimat period (1839&ndash1876). In the Tanzimat, constitutional reforms led to modernize the army, allowing banking system reforms and the replacement of religious law with secular law &ndash but apparently at that time the Tanzimat failed.

Yet how was a 600 years long tradition of religion, backed by another 800 years of continuous Caliphate that goes right to the origins of Islam &ndash abnegated? What had compelled the last caliphs of the moribund empire to even entertain an idea such as embracing not only the technical advances of the West but also their culture, law and way of life?

It appears that the onslaught of Europe over the Ottomans was not only a military one &ndash but also political, economic and social. Politically the British and French played games of intrigue with the Ottomans. When Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798, the British came to the Ottomans&rsquo help because French positioning on Egypt would mean British losing trade in the Mediterranean and endangering trade route to India for them. Later in 1882 the British brought in their forces to Egypt in the premise of quelling the Urabi Revolt for the Ottomans &ndash but as soon as they won the war, they practically occupied the land.

The British and the French posed to be friends of the Ottoman against the Russian Empire, who had been eating away its territories at its northeast extremes. In the 1853 Crimean War, they made alliance with the Ottomans to defeat the Russians, preventing it from fully controlling the Black Sea. So at occasions the weak and un-visionary Ottoman king had to befriend and oblige the British and the French &ndash who were playing on a very wider chessboard.

Few of such occasions when the Ottomans had to oblige the British and French were giving them trade concessions, allowing them to open their banks in their lands, introducing cash-crop farming that suited the industrial economy of the foreigners and allowing the return and settlement of Jews in Palestine at British request. Slowly but effectively the banks cripples the Ottoman economy - historian Eugene Rogan wrote, "the single greatest threat to the independence of the Middle East" in the nineteenth century "was not the armies of Europe but its banks". The Ottomans declared bankruptcy in 1875 and had to allow a European council to manage their debt, which they did by fully penetrating into the economy to the detriment of local Ottoman interests.

But the penetration was not just economic &ndash France was master of another game too &ndash Revolutions. Like many &lsquoYoung&rsquo movements that were fathered by France, the Young Turks originated in 1908, in France too. Previously called the Young Ottomans, the Young Turks had their origins in secret societies of progressive medical university students, military cadets and in Ottoman army officers and diplomats posted to France and other European countries. The First Congress of the Young Turks as an Ottoman Opposition was held in Feb 1902, at the house of Germain Antoin, a member of the Institut&rsquo de France, under the auspice of the French government. The Second Congress of Ottoman Opposition took place in Paris, France, in 1907.

Many other nationalist movements were planted all across the Ottoman lands. And while Arab Nationalism was anti-Ottoman on the pretext that the Ottomans, who were white Turks not Arabs, were the reason for all their misery and backwardness &ndash the Young Turks granted the burden of the age-ridden caliphate and conservative Islam as the reasons for the stagnancy of the otherwise fertile Turks. And the Ottomans found themselves cleft in the fault line between Arab hate that was puling all Arab lands away from it and Young Turks&rsquo racial nationalism that was adamant on destroying the very legitimacy upon which the Ottomans had ruled the hearts and minds of all its people &ndash the caliphate.

Kamal Ataturk, an army officer of the Ottoman forces, was one of the pioneer members of the Young Turks, he was one of the leaders of the 1908 Young Turk Revolution which seized power from Sultan Abdülhamid II and restored the Tanzimat constitution.

In 1923, the Republic of Turkey was proclaimed, with Kemal Ataturk as president. The new ideology put all the blame of degeneracy on Islamic teaching and codes of behavior and upon the Ulema (learned men of religion) who had hindered reform and progress in the Empire. Kemalism meant to emancipate the women and to eradicate the influence of Islam in education, law, and public administration. Guided by positivist ideas of &lsquoreason&rsquo &ndash the new administration abolished the Shariat Law, women were given equal rights with men in matters of marriage, divorce, custody over children and inheritance. Polygamy was outlawed. The veil was banned for women who were government employees and generally discouraged. All state schools, high schools and universities were made co-educational and religious education was taken out of school syllabus.

It was not that everyone in Turkey was happy about these measures &ndash in fact the populace cherished their Islamic heritage and thought of themselves as heir of the tradition not of modernity. Ataturk is seen by many in Turkey as a &lsquobenevolent dictator&rsquo &ndash in his own righteousness, he crushed all political dissent and religious organizations with force and consent was created by decree &ndash to this day the Constitution prohibits denial of Kemalism &ndash and in time many accepted the reforms and the promise of a richer life in Westernization.

With Ataturk the military establishment, that largely supports Kemal&rsquos secularist modernism, has made a firm grip over the country&rsquos politics and is often referred as the &lsquodeep state&rsquo. As of 2007, before the general elections, when Erdogan&rsquos party the AKP was set to win, Chief of Staff, General Buyukanit openly announced, "the Turkish Armed Forces, as up until now, will never sway from its determined stance and its duty of protecting and watching over the democratic, secular. Turkish Republic".

The Justice & Development Party (AKP) founded in 2001 by Tayyep Erdogan, and its constant successes since 2003, is a substantiation of the smoldering want in Turkish society for a return to Islamic tradition. AKP is a voice for political and conservative Islam in Turkey, and its leader Erdogan envisions Turkey&rsquos role as a leading one for the global Muslim community, thus a return to Ottomanism.

So Ataturk&rsquos legacy has created a hitherto permanent fault line in Turkish society, one that divides a modern and ultra-modern sector of society, which has become used to secular liberties &ndash that cherishes its NATO membership and looks forward to one in the EU &ndash and another sector of society that stands with Erdogan&rsquos endeavor to find a balanced middle ground between modernism and Islamism with the power of an elected democracy &ndash a comeback to Islam in the unique Turkish way, now being termed as Erdoganism.

But it has not been easy for Erdogan to establish his ideology as assertively as Ataturk once did. He faces opposition on every step he needs to take, for example there was a big row against the government when they made rules that the wine-industry cannot advertise and its taxes were increased. Similarly Erdogan has allowed wearing of headscarf, which was previously banned under law. Steps like this definitely draw Turkey further away from EU membership. But other factors like US intervention in the Syrian Civil War and the Refugees Crisis have made things even messier for Erdogan. Lately Erdogan has been using the Refugees as a threat to the EU, forcing the EU to play in Syria at his dictation.

Turkey has been a NATO member since 1952. NATO membership actually means NATO&rsquos accession of the foreign policy of a country, especially on defense matters. NATO being a largely US and European alliances, who&rsquos members widely see governments of Muslim states as undemocratic, fundamentalist and the barbaric others, has waged interventionist campaigns in many Muslim states post WWII. This behavior was not seem as offensive by the Kemalists, but with Erdogan sentiments have changed. In Nov 2016, Erdogan said that Turkey did not need to join the European Union "at all costs" and could instead become part of a security bloc dominated by China, Russia and Central Asian nations. He said, &lsquowhy shouldn&rsquot Turkey be part of the Shanghai Five (economic group between China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan)? And as Erdogan slowly moved his approach towards the Syrian Issues from the US/Saudi/Gulf prospective to the Russian perspective, Turkey has also become disillusioned by NATO. In Jan 2017, Turkish spokesperson told the media , &lsquoTurkey has the right to shut down its strategic Incirlik Airbase in the southern coastal Adana province&rsquo.

But will Turkey&rsquos bid to forsake the West be one without danger! Because after all, being an ally of the West has given Turkey added opportunities for growth. Today, with the wisdom of the Turkish state, Turkey stands with the first 15 strongest economies of the world and the Turkish Armed Forces rank as the 2cd largest standing military force in NATO, after the US Armed Forces. All this has certainly been possible by the pursuit of the worldly and secular and by throwing off the passive conservatism that had enshrouded the Muslim world a century ago. But the worldly does not lie only to the west, it can also be found in the east with Russia and China.

Being out of NATO could immediately put Turkey in the list of America&rsquos foes. And it would place it opposite to the fence where a strong part of the Arab World, consisting of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Jordan and Egypt, who match their defense strategies with those of NATO, stand. Will that not put Turkey on another fault line, a dangerous one &ndash that might renew the old enmity that the Arabs harbored against it some decades ago? Perhaps the fear of such fault lines was what inspired the recent standoff between the secularists and the Islamists in the July 2016 coup attempt against Erdogan.

The balancing act for Erdogan is a strenuous one. Rapidly changing geopolitics has placed him in a Turkey that is not only at the cross way of many trade-routes and gas-pipelines, the cross way of many cultural heritage and ideologies, the cross way between the east and the west &ndash but also a pivot that may decide US future as a hegemon, because if Erdogan&rsquos favoring of Russia proves to be the reason for Russia&rsquos success in Syria &ndash then Turkey would have created a fault line that was not there before, and which it would have now used against its past secular friends &ndash and Turkey would be responsible for toppling the geopolitical plates upon which the present world order is resting.

The question is will Turkish wisdom and Erdogan&rsquos statesmanship save Turkey from being entrenched in fault lines and turn the same into lines of opportunities? The near coming future will tell.

Nebuchadnezzar and the Fall of Babylon

The Kassite Dynasty ruled Babylonia following the fall of Hammurabi and was succeeded by the Second Dynasty of Isin, during which time the Babylonians experienced military success and cultural upheavals under Nebuchadnezzar.

The Fall of the Kassite Dynasty and the Rise of the Second Dynasty of Isin

Following the collapse of the First Babylonian Dynasty under Hammurabi, the Babylonian Empire entered a period of relatively weakened rule under the Kassites for 576 years— the longest dynasty in Babylonian history. The Kassite Dynasty eventually fell due to the loss of territory and military weakness, which resulted in the evident reduction in literacy and culture. In 1157 BCE, Babylon was conquered by Shutruk-Nahhunte of Elam.

The Elamites did not remain in control of Babylonia long, and Marduk-kabit-ahheshu (1155-1139 BCE) established the Second Dynasty of Isin. This dynasty was the very first native Akkadian-speaking south Mesopotamian dynasty to rule Babylon, and was to remain in power for some 125 years. The new king successfully drove out the Elamites and prevented any possible Kassite revival. Later in his reign, he went to war with Assyria and had some initial success before suffering defeat at the hands of the Assyrian king Ashur-Dan I. He was succeeded by his son Itti-Marduk-balatu in 1138 BCE, who was followed a year later by Ninurta-nadin-shumi in 1137 BCE.

The Reign of Nebuchadnezzar I and His Sons

Nebuchadnezzar I (1124-1103 BCE) was the most famous ruler of the Second Dynasty of Isin. He not only fought and defeated the Elamites and drove them from Babylonian territory but invaded Elam itself, sacked the Elamite capital Susa, and recovered the sacred statue of Marduk that had been carried off from Babylon. In the later years of his reign, he devoted himself to peaceful building projects and securing Babylonia’s borders. His construction activities are memorialized in building inscriptions of the Ekituš-ḫegal-tila, the temple of Adad in Babylon, and on bricks from the temple of Enlil in Nippur. A late Babylonian inventory lists his donations of gold vessels in Ur. The earliest of three extant economic texts is dated to Nebuchadnezzar’s eighth year in addition to two kudurrus and a stone memorial tablet, they form the only existing commercial records. These artifacts evidence the dynasty’s power as builders, craftsmen, and managers of the business of the empire.

Kudurru of Nebuchadnezzar. This detail depicts Nebuchadnezzar granting Marduk freedom from taxation.

Nebuchadnezzar was succeeded by his two sons, firstly Enlil-nadin-apli (1103-1100 BCE), who lost territory to Assyria, and then Marduk-nadin-ahhe (1098-1081 BCE), who also went to war with Assyria. Some initial success in these conflicts gave way to catastrophic defeat at the hands of Tiglath-pileser I, who annexed huge swathes of Babylonian territory, thereby further expanding the Assyrian Empire. Following this military defeat, a terrible famine gripped Babylon, which invited attacks from Semitic Aramean tribes from the west.

In 1072 BCE, King Marduk-shapik-zeri signed a peace treaty with Ashur-bel-kala of Assyria. His successor, Kadašman-Buriaš, however, did not maintain his predecessor’s peaceful intentions, and his actions prompted the Assyrian king to invade Babylonia and place his own man on the throne. Assyrian domination continued until c. 1050 BCE, with the two reigning Babylonian kings regarded as vassals of Assyria. Assyria descended into a period of civil war after 1050 BCE, which allowed Babylonia to once more largely free itself from the Assyrian yoke for a few decades.

However, Babylonia soon began to suffer repeated incursions from Semitic nomadic peoples migrating from the west, and large swathes of Babylonia were appropriated and occupied by these newly arrived Arameans, Chaldeans, and Suteans. Starting in 1026 and lasting till 911 BCE, Babylonia descended into a period of chaos.


The Mongol Empire was the largest contiguous empire in human history. The 12th and 13th century, when the empire came to power, is often called the "Age of the Mongols". The Mongol armies during that time were extremely well organized. The death toll (by battle, massacre, flooding, and famine) of the Mongol wars of conquest is placed at about 40 million according to some sources ( . M

Non-military achievements of the Mongol Empire include the introduction of a writing system, based on the Uighur script, and the same is still used in Inner Mongolia. The Empire caused the unification of all the tribes of Mongolia, which made possible the emergence of a Mongol nation and culture. Modern Mongolians are proud of the empire and the sense of identity that it gave to them.